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Title: Modern Painters. Vol. III (of V) - Containing Part IV. Of Many Things
Author: Ruskin, John, 1819-1900
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Modern Painters. Vol. III (of V) - Containing Part IV. Of Many Things" ***

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                        Transcriber's Notes:

  The original spelling and minor inconsistencies in the spelling and
  formatting have been retained. Unusual and alternative spellings have
  been retained as they appear on the original publication. Hyphenated
  words have been standardized.

  Contractions in the stylized Latin script on page 125 have been
  expanded and included in curly brackets {} by the transcriber:
  "jahes" has been shown as "jah{ann}es" and "scpsi" as "sc{ri}psi".

  Minor typographical changes are listed at the bottom of this text.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

                          Library Edition

                         THE COMPLETE WORKS
                             JOHN RUSKIN

                           MODERN PAINTERS

                      VOLUME III--OF MANY THINGS

                    NEW YORK             CHICAGO

                           MODERN PAINTERS.

                              VOL. III.,


                               PART IV.,

                           OF MANY THINGS.

                          TABLE OF CONTENTS.

                       PART IV. OF MANY THINGS.

  CHAPTER  I.--Of the received Opinions touching the "Grand Style"     1
     "    II.--Of Realization                                         16
     "   III.--Of the Real Nature of Greatness of Style               23
     "    IV.--Of the False Ideal:--First, Religious                  44
     "     V.--Of the False Ideal:--Secondly, Profane                 61
     "    VI.--Of the True Ideal:--First, Purist                      70
     "   VII.--Of the True Ideal:--Secondly, Naturalist               77
     "  VIII.--Of the True Ideal:--Thirdly, Grotesque                 92
     "    IX.--Of Finish                                             108
     "     X.--Of the Use of Pictures                                124
     "    XI.--Of the Novelty of Landscape                           144
     "   XII.--Of the Pathetic Fallacy                               152
     "  XIII.--Of Classical Landscape                                168
     "   XIV.--Of Mediæval Landscape:--First, the Fields             191
     "    XV.--Of Mediæval Landscape:--Secondly, the Rocks           229
     "   XVI.--Of Modern Landscape                                   248
     "  XVII.--The Moral of Landscape                                280
     " XVIII.--Of the Teachers of Turner                             308


    I.--Claude's Tree-drawing                                        333
   II.--German Philosophy                                            336
  III.--Plagiarism                                                   338

                     LIST OF PLATES TO VOL. III.

                                  Drawn by            Engraved by
  Frontispiece. Lake, Land,     _The Author_        J. C. ARMYTAGE.
    and Cloud.
   Plate                                                            page

   1. True and False Griffins    _The Author_       R. P. CUFF       106

   2. Drawing of Tree-bark       _Various_          J. H. LE KEUX    114

   3. Strength of old Pine       _The Author_       J. H. LE KEUX    116

   4. Ramification according     _Claude_           J. H. LE KEUX    117
      to Claude

   5. Good and Bad               _Turner and        J. COUSEN        118
      Tree-drawing               Constable_

   6. Foreground Leafage         _The Author_       J. C. ARMYTAGE   121

   7. Botany of the Thirteenth   _Missal-Painters_  HENRY SHAW       203

   8. The Growth of Leaves       _The Author_       R. P. CUFF       204

   9. Botany of the Fourteenth   _Missal-Painters_  CUFF; H. SWAN    207

  10. Geology of the Middle      _Leonardo, etc._   R. P. CUFF       238

  11. Latest Purism              _Raphael_          J. C. ARMYTAGE   313

  12. The Shores of Wharfe       _J. W. M. Turner_  THE AUTHOR       314

  13. First Mountain-Naturalism  _Masaccio_         J. H. LE KEUX    315

  14. The Lombard Apennine       _The Author_       THOS. LUPTON     315

  15. St. George of the Seaweed  _The Author_       THOS. LUPTON     315

  16. Early Naturalism           _Titian_           J. C. ARMYTAGE   316

  17. Advanced Naturalism        _Tintoret_         J. C. ARMYTAGE   316


As this preface is nearly all about myself, no one need take the trouble
of reading it, unless he happens to be desirous of knowing-- what I, at
least, am bound to state,--the circumstances which have caused the long
delay of the work, as well as the alterations which will be noticed in
its form.

The first and second volumes were written to check, as far as I
could, the attacks upon Turner which prevented the public from
honoring his genius, at the time when his power was greatest. The
check was partially given, but too late; Turner was seized by
painful illness not long after the second volume appeared; his
works, towards the close of the year 1845, showed a conclusive
failure of power; and I saw that nothing remained for me to write,
but his epitaph.

The critics had done their proper and appointed work; they had
embittered, more than those who did not know Turner intimately could
have believed possible, the closing years of his life; and had
blinded the world in general (as it appears ordained by Fate that
the world always _shall_ be blinded) to the presence of a great
spirit among them, till the hour of its departure. With them, and
their successful work, I had nothing more to do; the account of gain
and loss, of gifts and gratitude, between Turner and his countrymen,
was for ever closed. _He_ could only be left to his quiet death at
Chelsea,--the sun upon his face; _they_ to dispose a length of
funeral through Ludgate, and bury, with threefold honor, his body in
St. Paul's, his pictures at Charing Cross, and his purposes in
Chancery. But with respect to the illustration and preservation of
those of his works which remained unburied, I felt that much might
yet be done, if I could at all succeed in proving that these works
had some nobleness in them, and were worth preservation. I pursued
my task, therefore, as I had at first proposed, with this only
difference in method,--that instead of writing in continued haste,
such as I had been forced into at first by the urgency of the
occasion, I set myself to do the work as well as I could, and to
collect materials for the complete examination of the canons of art
received among us.

I have now given ten years of my life to the single purpose of
enabling myself to judge rightly of art, and spent them in labor as
earnest and continuous as men usually undertake to gain position, or
accumulate fortune. It is true, that the public still call me an
"amateur;" nor have I ever been able to persuade them that it was
possible to work steadily and hard with any other motive than that
of gaining bread, or to give up a fixed number of hours every day to
the furtherance of an object unconnected with personal interests. I
have, however, given up so much of life to this object; earnestly
desiring to ascertain, and be able to teach, the truth respecting
art; and also knowing that this truth was, by time and labor,
definitely ascertainable.

It is an idea too frequently entertained, by persons who are not much
interested in art, that there are no laws of right or wrong concerning
it; and that the best art is that which pleases most widely. Hence the
constant allegation of "dogmatism" against any one who states
unhesitatingly either preference or principle, respecting pictures.
There are, however, laws of truth and right in painting, just as fixed
as those of harmony in music, or of affinity in chemistry. Those laws
are perfectly ascertainable by labor, and ascertainable no other way.
It is as ridiculous for any one to speak positively about painting who
has not given a great part of his life to its study, as it would be for
a person who had never studied chemistry to give a lecture on
affinities of elements; but it is also as ridiculous for a person to
speak hesitatingly about laws of painting who has conscientiously given
his time to their ascertainment, as it would be for Mr. Faraday to
announce in a dubious manner that iron had an affinity for oxygen, and
to put the question to the vote of his audience whether it had or not.
Of course there are many things, in all stages of knowledge, which
cannot be dogmatically stated; and it will be found, by any candid
reader, either of what I have before written, or of this book, that in
many cases, I am _not_ dogmatic. The phrase, "I think so," or, "it
seems so to me," will be met with continually; and I pray the reader to
believe that I use such expression always in seriousness, never as
matter of form.

It may perhaps be thought that, considering the not very elaborate
structure of the following volumes, they might have been finished
sooner. But it will be found, on reflection, that the ranges of
inquiry engaged in demanded, even for their slight investigation,
time and pains which are quite unrepresented in the result. It often
required a week or two's hard walking to determine some geological
problem, now dismissed in an unnoticed sentence; and it constantly
needed examination and thought, prolonged during many days in the
picture gallery, to form opinions which the reader may suppose to be
dictated by caprice, and will hear only to dispute.

A more serious disadvantage, resulting from the necessary breadth of
subject, was the chance of making mistakes in minor and accessory
points. For the labor of a critic who sincerely desires to be just,
extends into more fields than it is possible for any single hand to
furrow straightly. He has to take _some_ note of many physical
sciences; of optics, geometry, geology, botany, and anatomy; he must
acquaint himself with the works of all great artists, and with the
temper and history of the times in which they lived; he must be a fair
metaphysician, and a careful observer of the phenomena of natural
scenery. It is not possible to extend the range of work thus widely,
without running the chance of occasionally making mistakes; and if I
carefully guarded against that chance, I should be compelled both to
shorten my powers of usefulness in many directions, and to lose much
time over what work I undertook. All that I can secure, therefore, is
rightness in main points and main tendencies; for it is perfectly
possible to protect oneself against small errors, and yet to make
great and final error in the sum of work: on the other hand, it is
equally possible to fall into many small errors, and yet be right in
tendency all the while, and entirely right in the end. In this
respect, some men may be compared to careful travellers, who neither
stumble at stones, nor slip in sloughs, but have, from the beginning
of their journey to its close, chosen the wrong road; and others to
those who, however slipping or stumbling at the wayside, have yet
their eyes fixed on the true gate and goal (stumbling, perhaps, even
the more because they have), and will not fail of reaching them. Such
are assuredly the safer guides: he who follows them may avoid their
slips, and be their companion in attainment.

Although, therefore, it is not possible but that, in the discussion
of so many subjects as are necessarily introduced in the following
pages, here and there a chance should arise of minor mistake or
misconception, the reader need not be disturbed by the detection of
any such. He will find always that they do not affect the matter
mainly in hand.

I refer especially in these remarks to the chapters on Classical and
Mediæval Landscape. It is certain, that in many respects, the views
there stated must be inaccurate or incomplete; for how should it be
otherwise when the subject is one whose proper discussion would
require knowledge of the entire history of two great ages of the
world? But I am well assured that the suggestions in those chapters
are useful; and that even if, after farther study of the subject,
the reader should find cause to differ with me in this or the other
speciality, he will yet thank me for helping him to a certain length
in the investigation, and confess, perhaps, that he could not at
last have been right, if I had not first ventured to be wrong.

And of one thing he may be certified, that any error I fall into will
not be in an illogical deduction: I may mistake the meaning of a
symbol, or the angle of a rock-cleavage, but not draw an inconsequent
conclusion. I state this, because it has often been said that I am not
logical, by persons who do not so much as know what logic means. Next
to imagination, the power of perceiving logical relation is one of the
rarest among men; certainly, of those with whom I have conversed, I
have found always ten who had deep feeling, quick wit, or extended
knowledge, for one who could set down a syllogism without a flaw; and
for ten who could set down a syllogism, only one who could _entirely_
understand that a square has four sides. Even as I am sending these
sheets to press, a work is put into my hand, written to prove (I would,
from the depth of my heart, it could prove) that there was no ground
for what I said in the Stones of Venice respecting the logical
probability of the continuity of evil. It seems learned, temperate,
thoughtful, everything in feeling and aim that a book should be, and
yet it begins with this sentence:

    "The question cited in our preface, 'Why not infinite good out
    of infinite evil?' must be taken to imply--for it else can
    have no weight,--that in order to the production of infinite
    good, the existence of infinite evil is indispensable."

So, if I had said that there was no reason why honey should not be
sucked out of a rock, and oil out of a flinty rock, the writer would
have told me this sentence must be taken to imply--for it else could
have no weight,--that in order to the production of honey, the
existence of rocks is indispensable. No less intense and marvellous are
the logical errors into which our best writers are continually falling,
owing to the notion that laws of logic will help them better than
common sense. Whereas any man who can reason at all, does it
instinctively, and takes leaps over intermediate syllogisms by the
score, yet never misses his footing at the end of the leap; but he who
cannot instinctively argue, might as well, with the gout in both feet,
try to follow a chamois hunter by the help of crutches, as to follow,
by the help of syllogism, a person who has the right use of his reason.
I should not, however, have thought it necessary to allude to this
common charge against my writings, but that it happens to confirm some
views I have long entertained, and which the reader will find glanced
at in their proper place, respecting the necessity of a more
_practically_ logical education for our youth. Of other various charges
I need take no note, because they are always answered the one by the
other. The complaint made against me to-day for being narrow and
exclusive, is met to-morrow by indignation that I should admire schools
whose characters cannot be reconciled; and the assertion of one critic,
that I am always contradicting myself, is balanced by the vexation of
another, at my ten years' obstinacies in error.

I once intended the illustrations to these volumes to be more numerous
and elaborate, but the art of photography now enables any reader to
obtain as many memoranda of the facts of nature as he needs; and, in
the course of my ten years' pause, I have formed plans for the
representation of some of the works of Turner on their own scale; so
that it would have been quite useless to spend time in reducing
drawings to the size of this page, which were afterwards to be
engraved of their own size.[1] I have therefore here only given
illustrations enough to enable the reader, who has not access to the
works of Turner, to understand the principles laid down in the text,
and apply them to such art as may be within his reach. And I owe
sincere thanks to the various engravers who have worked with me, for
the zeal and care with which they have carried out the requirements in
each case, and overcome difficulties of a nature often widely
differing from those involved by their habitual practice. I would not
make invidious distinction, where all have done well; but may perhaps
be permitted to point, as examples of what I mean, to the 3rd and 6th
Plates in this volume (the 6th being left unlettered in order not to
injure the effect of its ground), in which Mr. Le Keux and Mr.
Armytage have exactly facsimiled, in line engraving, drawings of mine
made on a grey ground touched with white, and have given even the
_loaded_ look of the body color. The power of thus imitating actual
touches of color with pure lines will be, I believe, of great future
importance in rendering Turner's work on a large scale. As for the
merit or demerit of these or other drawings of my own, which I am
obliged now for the sake of illustration often to engrave, I believe I
could speak of it impartially, and should unreluctantly do so; but I
leave, as most readers will think I ought, such judgment to them,
merely begging them to remember that there are two general principles
to be kept in mind in examining the drawings of any writer on art: the
first, that they ought at least to show such ordinary skill in
draughtsmanship, as to prove that the writer knows _what_ the good
qualities of drawing _are_; the second, that they are never to be
expected to equal, in either execution or conception, the work of
accomplished artists,--for the simple reason, that in order to do
_any_thing thoroughly well, the whole mind, and the whole available
time, must be given to that single art. It is probable, for reasons
which will be noted in the following pages, that the critical and
executive faculties are in great part independent of each other; so
that it is nearly as great an absurdity to require of any critic that
he should equal in execution even the work which he condemns, as to
require of the audience which hisses a piece of vocal music that they
should instantly chant it in truer harmony themselves. But whether
this be true or not (it is at least untrue to this extent, that a
certain power of drawing is _indispensable_ to the critic of art), and
supposing that the executive and critical powers always exist in some
correspondent degree in the same person, still they cannot be
cultivated to the same extent. The attention required for the
development of a theory is necessarily withdrawn from the design of a
drawing, and the time devoted to the realization of a form is lost to
the solution of a problem. Choice _must_ at last be made between one
and the other power, as the principal aim of life; and if the painter
should find it necessary sometimes to explain one of his pictures in
words, or the writer to illustrate his meaning with a drawing, the
skill of the one need not be doubted because his logic is feeble, nor
the sense of the other because his pencil is listless.

As, however, it is sometimes alleged by the opponents of my
principles, that I have never _done_ _any_thing, it is proper that the
reader should know exactly the amount of work for which I am
answerable in these illustrations. When an example is given from any
of the works of Turner, it is either etched by myself from the
original drawing, or engraved from a drawing of mine, translating
Turner's work out of color into black and white, as for instance, the
frontispiece to the fourth volume. When a plate is inscribed as
"_after_" such and such a master, I have always myself made the
drawing, in black and white, from the original picture; as, for
instance, Plate 11, in this volume. If it has been made from a
previously existing engraving, it is inscribed with the name of the
first engraver at the left-hand lowest corner; as, for instance, Plate
18, in Vol. IV. Outline etchings are either by my own hand on the
steel, as Plate 12, here, and 20, 21, in Vol. IV.; or copies from my
pen drawings, etched by Mr. Boys, with a fidelity for which I
sincerely thank him; one, Plate 22, Vol. IV., is both drawn and etched
by Mr. Boys from an old engraving. Most of the other illustrations are
engraved from my own studies from nature. The colored Plate (7, in
this volume) is from a drawing executed with great skill by my
assistant, Mr. J. J. Laing, from MSS. in the British Museum; and the
lithography of it has been kindly superintended by Mr. Henry Shaw,
whose renderings of mediæval ornaments stand, as far as I know, quite
unrivalled in modern art. The two woodcuts of mediæval design, Figs. 1
and 3, are also from drawings by Mr. Laing, admirably cut by Miss
Byfield. I use this word "admirably," not with reference to mere
delicacy of execution, which can usually be had for money, but to the
perfect fidelity of facsimile, which is in general _not_ to be had for
money, and by which Miss Byfield has saved me all trouble with respect
to the numerous woodcuts in the fourth volume; first, by her excellent
renderings of various portions of Albert Durer's woodcuts; and,
secondly, by reproducing, to their last dot or scratch, my own pen
diagrams, drawn in general so roughly that few wood-engravers would
have condescended to cut them with care, and yet always involving some
points in which care was indispensable. One or two changes have been
permitted in the arrangement of the book, which make the text in
these volumes not altogether a symmetrical continuation of that in
former ones. Thus, I thought it better to put the numbers of
paragraphs always at the left-hand side of the page; and as the
summaries, in small type, appeared to me for the most part cumbrous
and useless, I have banished them, except where there were complicated
divisions of subject which it seemed convenient to indicate at the
margin. I am not sorry thus to carry out my own principle of the
sacrifice of architectural or constructive symmetry to practical
service. The plates are, in a somewhat unusual way, numbered
consecutively through the two volumes, as I intend them to be also
through the fifth. This plan saves much trouble in references.

I have only to express, in conclusion, my regret that it has been
impossible to finish the work within the limits first proposed.
Having, of late, found my designs always requiring enlargement in
process of execution, I will take care, in future, to set no limits
whatsoever to any good intentions. In the present instance I trust
the reader will pardon me, as the later efforts of our schools of
art have necessarily introduced many new topics of discussion.

And so I wish him heartily a happy New Year.

Denmark Hill, Jan. 1856.

  [1] I should be very grateful to the proprietors of pictures or
      drawings by Turner, if they would send me lists of the works
      in their possession; as I am desirous of forming a systematic
      catalogue of all his works.

[Illustration: Lake, Land, and Cloud. (near Como.)]

                           MODERN PAINTERS.

                               PART IV.

                           OF MANY THINGS.



§ 1. In taking up the clue of an inquiry, now intermitted for nearly
ten years, it may be well to do as a traveller would, who had to
recommence an interrupted journey in a guideless country; and,
ascending, as it were, some little hill beside our road, note how
far we have already advanced, and what pleasantest ways we may
choose for farther progress.

I endeavored, in the beginning of the first volume, to divide the
sources of pleasure open to us in Art into certain groups, which
might conveniently be studied in succession. After some preliminary
discussion, it was concluded (Part I. Chap. III. § 86), that these
groups were, in the main, three; consisting, first, of the pleasures
taken in perceiving simple resemblance to Nature (Ideas of Truth);
secondly, of the pleasures taken in the beauty of the things chosen
to be painted (Ideas of Beauty); and, lastly, of pleasures taken in
the meanings and relations of these things (Ideas of Relation).

The first volume, treating of the ideas of Truth, was chiefly occupied
with an inquiry into the various success with which different artists
had represented the facts of Nature,--an inquiry necessarily conducted
very imperfectly, owing to the want of pictorial illustration.

The second volume nearly opened the inquiry into the nature of ideas
of Beauty and Relation, by analysing (as far as I was able to do so)
the two faculties of the human mind which mainly seized such ideas;
namely, the contemplative and imaginative faculties.

It remains for us to examine the various success of artists, especially
of the great landscape-painter whose works have been throughout our
principal subject, in addressing these faculties of the human mind, and
to consider who among them has conveyed the noblest ideas of beauty,
and touched the deepest sources of thought.

§ 2. I do not intend, however, now to pursue the inquiry in a method
so laboriously systematic; for the subject may, it seems to me, be
more usefully treated by pursuing the different questions which rise
out of it just as they occur to us, without too great scrupulousness
in marking connections, or insisting on sequences. Much time is
wasted by human beings, in general, on establishment of systems; and
it often takes more labor to master the intricacies of an artificial
connection, than to remember the separate facts which are so
carefully connected. I suspect that system-makers, in general, are
not of much more use, each in his own domain, than, in that of
Pomona, the old women who tie cherries upon sticks, for the more
convenient portableness of the same. To cultivate well, and choose
well, your cherries, is of some importance; but if they can be had
in their own wild way of clustering about their crabbed stalk, it is
a better connection for them than any other; and, if they cannot,
then, so that they be not bruised, it makes to a boy of a practical
disposition, not much difference whether he gets them by handfuls,
or in beaded symmetry on the exalting stick. I purpose, therefore,
henceforward to trouble myself little with sticks or twine, but to
arrange my chapters with a view to convenient reference, rather than
to any careful division of subjects, and to follow out, in any
by-ways that may open, on right hand or left, whatever question it
seems useful at any moment to settle.

§ 3. And, in the outset, I find myself met by one which I ought to
have touched upon before--one of especial interest in the present
state of the Arts. I have said that the art is greatest which
includes the greatest ideas; but I have not endeavored to define the
nature of this greatness in the ideas themselves. We speak of great
truths, of great beauties, great thoughts. What is it which makes
one truth greater than another, one thought greater than another?
This question is, I repeat, of peculiar importance at the present
time; for, during a period now of some hundred and fifty years, all
writers on Art who have pretended to eminence, have insisted much on
a supposed distinction between what they call the Great and the Low
Schools; using the terms "High Art," "Great or Ideal Style," and
other such, as descriptive of a certain noble manner of painting,
which it was desirable that all students of Art should be early led
to reverence and adopt; and characterising as "vulgar," or "low," or
"realist," another manner of painting and conceiving, which it was
equally necessary that all students should be taught to avoid.

But lately this established teaching, never very intelligible, has
been gravely called in question. The advocates and self-supposed
practisers of "High Art" are beginning to be looked upon with doubt,
and their peculiar phraseology to be treated with even a certain
degree of ridicule. And other forms of Art are partly developed
among us, which do not pretend to be high, but rather to be strong,
healthy, and humble. This matter of "highness" in Art, therefore
deserves our most careful consideration. Has it been, or is it, a
true highness, a true princeliness, or only a show of it, consisting
in courtly manners and robes of state? Is it rocky height or cloudy
height, adamant or vapor, on which the sun of praise so long has
risen and set? It will be well at once to consider this.

§ 4. And first, let us get, as quickly as may be, at the exact
meaning with which the advocates of "High Art" use that somewhat
obscure and figurative term.

I do not know that the principles in question are anywhere more
distinctly expressed than in two papers in the Idler, written by Sir
Joshua Reynolds, of course under the immediate sanction of Johnson;
and which may thus be considered as the utterance of the views then
held upon the subject by the artists of chief skill, and critics of
most sense, arranged in a form so brief and clear, as to admit of
their being brought before the public for a morning's entertainment.
I cannot, therefore, it seems to me, do better than quote these two
letters, or at least the important parts of them, examining the exact
meaning of each passage as it occurs. There are, in all, in the Idler
three letters on painting, Nos. 76, 79, and 82; of these, the first is
directed only against the impertinences of pretended connoisseurs, and
is as notable for its faithfulness, as for its wit, in the description
of the several modes of criticism in an artificial and ignorant state
of society; it is only, therefore, in the two last papers that we find
the expression of the doctrines which it is our business to examine.

No. 79 (Saturday, Oct. 20th, 1759) begins, after a short preamble,
with the following passage:--

    "Amongst the painters, and the writers on painting, there is one
    maxim universally admitted and continually inculcated. Imitate
    nature is the invariable rule; but I know none who have
    explained in what manner this rule is to be understood; the
    sequence of which is, that every one takes it in the most
    obvious sense, that objects are represented naturally when they
    have such relief that they seem real. It may appear strange,
    perhaps, to hear this sense of the rule disputed; but it must be
    considered, that, if the excellency of a painter consisted only
    in this kind of imitation, Painting must lose its rank, and be
    no longer considered as a liberal art, and sister to Poetry,
    this imitation being nearly mechanical, in which the slowest
    intellect is always sure to succeed best; for the painter of
    genius cannot stoop to drudgery, in which the understanding has
    no part; and what pretence has the art to claim kindred with
    poetry but by its power over the imagination? To this power the
    painter of genius directs him; in this sense he studies nature,
    and often arrives at his end, even by being unnatural in the
    confined sense of the word."

    "The grand style of painting requires this minute attention to be
    carefully avoided, and must be kept as separate from it as the
    style of poetry from that of history. (Poetical ornaments destroy
    that air of truth and plainness which ought to characterise
    history; but the very being of poetry consists in departing from
    this plain narrative, and adopting every ornament that will warm
    the imagination.[2]) To desire to see the excellencies of each
    style united--to mingle the Dutch with the Italian school, is to
    join contrarieties, which cannot subsist together, and which
    destroy the efficacy of each other."

§ 5. We find, first, from this interesting passage, that the writer
considers the Dutch and Italian masters as severally representative
of the low and high schools; next, that he considers the Dutch
painters as excelling in a mechanical imitation, "in which the
slowest intellect is always sure to succeed best;" and, thirdly,
that he considers the Italian painters as excelling in a style which
corresponds to that of imaginative poetry in literature, and which
has an exclusive right to be called the grand style.

I wish that it were in my power entirely to concur with the writer,
and to enforce this opinion thus distinctly stated. I have never
been a zealous partisan of the Dutch School, and should rejoice in
claiming Reynolds's authority for the assertion, that their manner
was one "in which the slowest intellect was always sure to succeed
best." But before his authority can be so claimed, we must observe
exactly the meaning of the assertion itself, and separate it from
the company of some others not perhaps so admissible. First, I say,
we must observe Reynolds's exact meaning, for (though the assertion
may at first appear singular) a man who uses accurate language is
always more liable to misinterpretation than one who is careless in
his expressions. We may assume that the latter means very nearly
what we at first suppose him to mean, for words which have been
uttered without thought may be received without examination. But
when a writer or speaker may be fairly supposed to have considered
his expressions carefully, and, after having revolved a number of
terms in his mind, to have chosen the one which _exactly_ means the
thing he intends to say, we may be assured that what costs him time
to select, will require from us time to understand, and that we
shall do him wrong, unless we pause to reflect how the word which he
has actually employed differs from other words which it seems he
_might_ have employed. It thus constantly happens that persons
themselves unaccustomed to think clearly, or speak correctly,
misunderstand a logical and careful writer, and are actually in more
danger of being misled by language which is measured and precise,
than by that which is loose and inaccurate.

§ 6. Now, in the instance before us, a person not accustomed to good
writing might very rashly conclude, that when Reynolds spoke of the
Dutch School as one "in which the slowest intellect was sure to succeed
best," he meant to say that every successful Dutch painter was a fool.
We have no right to take his assertion in that sense. He says, the
_slowest_ intellect. We have no right to assume that he meant the
_weakest_. For it is true, that in order to succeed in the Dutch style,
a man has need of qualities of mind eminently deliberate and sustained.
He must be possessed of patience rather than of power; and must feel no
weariness in contemplating the expression of a single thought for
several months together. As opposed to the changeful energies of the
imagination, these mental characters may be properly spoken of as under
the general term--slowness of intellect. But it by no means follows
that they are necessarily those of weak or foolish men.

We observe however, farther, that the imitation which Reynolds
supposes to be characteristic of the Dutch School is that which
gives to objects such relief that they seem real, and that he then
speaks of this art of realistic imitation as corresponding to
_history_ in literature.

§ 7. Reynolds, therefore, seems to class these dull works of the
Dutch School under a general head, to which they are not commonly
referred--that of _Historical_ painting; while he speaks of the
works of the Italian School not as historical, but as _poetical_
painting. His next sentence will farther manifest his meaning.

    "The Italian attends only to the invariable, the great and
    general ideas which are fixed and inherent in universal
    nature; the Dutch, on the contrary, to literal truth and
    minute exactness in the detail, as I may say, of nature
    modified by accident. The attention to these petty
    peculiarities is the very cause of this naturalness so much
    admired in the Dutch pictures, which, if we suppose it to be a
    beauty, is certainly of a lower order, which ought to give
    place to a beauty of a superior kind, since one cannot be
    obtained but by departing from the other.

    "If my opinion was asked concerning the works of Michael
    Angelo, whether they would receive any advantage from
    possessing this mechanical merit, I should not scruple to say,
    they would not only receive no advantage, but would lose, in a
    great measure, the effect which they now have on every mind
    susceptible of great and noble ideas. His works may be said to
    be all genius and soul; and why should they be loaded with
    heavy matter, which can only counteract his purpose by
    retarding the progress of the imagination?"

Examining carefully this and the preceding passage, we find the
author's unmistakable meaning to be, that Dutch painting is _history_;
attending to literal truth and "minute exactness in the details of
nature modified by accident." That Italian painting is _poetry_,
attending only to the invariable; and that works which attend only to
the invariable are full of genius and soul; but that literal truth and
exact detail are "heavy matter which retards the progress of the

§ 8. This being then indisputably what Reynolds means to tell us,
let us think a little whether he is in all respects right. And
first, as he compares his two kinds of painting to history and
poetry, let us see how poetry and history themselves differ, in
their use of _variable_ and _invariable_ details. I am writing at a
window which commands a view of the head of the Lake of Geneva; and
as I look up from my paper, to consider this point, I see, beyond
it, a blue breadth of softly moving water, and the outline of the
mountains above Chillon, bathed in morning mist. The first verses
which naturally come into my mind are--

      "A thousand feet in depth below
      The massy waters meet and flow;
      So far the fathom line was sent
      From Chillon's snow-white battlement."

Let us see in what manner this poetical statement is distinguished
from a historical one.

It is distinguished from a truly historical statement, first, in being
simply false. The water under the castle of Chillon is not a thousand
feet deep, nor anything like it.[3] Herein, certainly, these lines
fulfil Reynolds's first requirement in poetry, "that it should be
inattentive to literal truth and minute exactness in detail." In
order, however, to make our comparison more closely in other points,
let us assume that what is stated is indeed a fact, and that it was to
be recorded, first historically, and then poetically.

Historically stating it, then, we should say: "The lake was sounded
from the walls of the castle of Chillon, and found to be a thousand
feet deep."

Now, if Reynolds be right in his idea of the difference between
history and poetry, we shall find that Byron leaves out of this
statement certain _un_necessary details, and retains only the
invariable,--that is to say, the points which the Lake of Geneva and
castle of Chillon have in common with all other lakes and castles.

Let us hear, therefore.

      "A thousand feet in depth below."

"Below?" Here is, at all events, a word added (instead of anything
being taken away); invariable, certainly in the case of lakes, but
not absolutely necessary.

      "The massy waters meet and flow."

"Massy!" why massy? Because deep water is heavy. The word is a good
word, but it is assuredly an added detail, and expresses a character,
not which the Lake of Geneva has in common with all other lakes, but
which it has in distinction from those which are narrow or shallow.

§ 9. "Meet and flow." Why meet and flow? Partly to make up a rhyme;
partly to tell us that the waters are forceful as well as massy, and
changeful as well as deep. Observe, a farther addition of details,
and of details more or less peculiar to the spot, or, according to
Reynolds's definition, of "heavy matter, retarding the progress of
the imagination."

      "So far the fathom line was sent."

Why fathom line? All lines for sounding are not fathom lines. If the
lake was ever sounded from Chillon, it was probably sounded in
metres, not fathoms. This is an addition of another particular
detail, in which the only compliance with Reynolds's requirement is,
that there is some chance of its being an inaccurate one.

      "From Chillon's snow-white battlement."

Why snow-white? Because castle battlements are not usually
snow-white. This is another added detail, and a detail quite
peculiar to Chillon, and therefore exactly the most striking word in
the whole passage.

"Battlement!" why battlement? Because all walls have not
battlements, and the addition of the term marks the castle to be not
merely a prison, but a fortress.

This is a curious result. Instead of finding, as we expected, the
poetry distinguished from the history by the omission of details, we
find it consist entirely in the _addition_ of details; and instead
of being characterized by regard only of the invariable, we find its
whole power to consist in the clear expression of what is singular
and particular!

§ 10. The reader may pursue the investigation for himself in other
instances. He will find in every case that a poetical is distinguished
from a merely historical statement, not by being more vague, but more
specific, and it might, therefore, at first appear that our author's
comparison should be simply reversed, and that the Dutch School should
be called poetical, and the Italian historical. But the term poetical
does not appear very applicable to the generality of Dutch painting;
and a little reflection will show us, that if the Italians represent
only the invariable, they cannot be properly compared even to
historians. For that which is incapable of change has no history, and
records which state only the invariable need not be written, and could
not be read.

§ 11. It is evident, therefore, that our author has entangled himself
in some grave fallacy, by introducing this idea of invariableness as
forming a distinction between poetical and historical art. What the
fallacy is, we shall discover as we proceed; but as an invading army
should not leave an untaken fortress in its rear, we must not go on
with our inquiry into the views of Reynolds until we have settled
satisfactorily the question already suggested to us, in what the
essence of poetical treatment really consists. For though, as we have
seen, it certainly involves the addition of specific details, it
cannot be simply that addition which turns the history into poetry.
For it is perfectly possible to add any number of details to a
historical statement, and to make it more prosaic with every added
word. As, for instance, "The lake was sounded out of a flat-bottomed
boat, near the crab tree at the corner of the kitchen-garden, and was
found to be a thousand feet nine inches deep, with a muddy bottom." It
thus appears that it is not the multiplication of details which
constitutes poetry; nor their subtraction which constitutes history;
but that there must be something either in the nature of the details
themselves, or the method of using them, which invests them with
poetical power or historical propriety.

§ 12. It seems to me, and may seem to the reader, strange that we
should need to ask the question, "What is poetry?" Here is a word we
have been using all our lives, and, I suppose, with a very distinct
idea attached to it; and when I am now called upon to give a
definition of this idea, I find myself at a pause. What is more
singular, I do not at present recollect hearing the question often
asked, though surely it is a very natural one; and I never recollect
hearing it answered, or even attempted to be answered. In general,
people shelter themselves under metaphors, and while we hear poetry
described as an utterance of the soul, an effusion of Divinity, or
voice of nature, or in other terms equally elevated and obscure, we
never attain anything like a definite explanation of the character
which actually distinguishes it from prose.

§ 13. I come, after some embarrassment, to the conclusion, that poetry
is "the suggestion, by the imagination, of noble grounds for the noble
emotions." I mean, by the noble emotions, those four principal sacred
passions--Love, Veneration, Admiration, and Joy (this latter
especially, if unselfish); and their opposites--Hatred, Indignation (or
Scorn), Horror, and Grief,--this last, when unselfish, becoming
Compassion. These passions in their various combinations constitute
what is called "poetical feeling," when they are felt on noble grounds,
that is, on great and true grounds. Indignation, for instance, is a
poetical feeling, if excited by serious injury; but it is not a
poetical feeling if entertained on being cheated out of a small sum of
money. It is very possible the manner of the cheat may have been such
as to justify considerable indignation; but the feeling is nevertheless
not poetical unless the grounds of it be large as well as just. In like
manner, energetic admiration may be excited in certain minds by a
display of fireworks, or a street of handsome shops; but the feeling is
not poetical, because the grounds of it are false, and therefore
ignoble. There is in reality nothing to deserve admiration either in
the firing of packets of gunpowder, or in the display of the stocks of
ware-houses. But admiration excited by the budding of a flower is a
poetical feeling, because it is impossible that this manifestation of
spiritual power and vital beauty can ever be enough admired.

§ 14. Farther, it is necessary to the existence of poetry that the
grounds of these feelings should be _furnished by the imagination_.
Poetical feeling, that is to say, mere noble emotion, is not poetry.
It is happily inherent in all human nature deserving the name, and
is found often to be purest in the least sophisticated. But the
power of assembling, by the _help of the imagination_, such images
as will excite these feelings, is the power of the poet or literally
of the "Maker."[4]

Now this power of exciting the emotions depends of course on the
richness of the imagination, and on its choice of those images which,
in combination, will be most effective, or, for the particular work to
be done, most fit. And it is altogether impossible for a writer not
endowed with invention to conceive what tools a true poet will make
use of, or in what way he will apply them, or what unexpected results
he will bring out by them; so that it is vain to say that the details
of poetry ought to possess, or ever do possess, any _definite_
character. Generally speaking, poetry runs into finer and more
delicate details than prose; but the details are not poetical because
they are more delicate, but because they are employed so as to bring
out an affecting result. For instance, no one but a true poet would
have thought of exciting our pity for a bereaved father by describing
his way of locking the door of his house:

      "Perhaps to himself, at that moment he said,
      The key I must take, for my Ellen is dead;
      But of this in my ears not a word did he speak,
      And he went to the chase with a tear on his cheek."

In like manner, in painting, it is altogether impossible to say
beforehand what details a great painter may make poetical by his use
of them to excite noble emotions: and we shall, therefore, find
presently that a painting is to be classed in the great or inferior
schools, not according to the kind of details which it represents,
but according to the uses for which it employs them.

§ 15. It is only farther to be noticed, that infinite confusion has
been introduced into this subject by the careless and illogical
custom of opposing painting to poetry, instead of regarding poetry
as consisting in a noble use, whether of colors or words. Painting
is properly to be opposed to _speaking_ or _writing_, but not to
_poetry_. Both painting and speaking are methods of expression.
Poetry is the employment of either for the noblest purposes.

§ 16. This question being thus far determined, we may proceed with
our paper in the Idler.

    "It is very difficult to determine the exact degree of
    enthusiasm that the arts of painting and poetry may admit.
    There may, perhaps, be too great indulgence as well as too
    great a restraint of imagination; if the one produces
    incoherent monsters, the other produces what is full as bad,
    lifeless insipidity. An intimate knowledge of the passions,
    and good sense, but not common sense, must at last determine
    its limits. It has been thought, and I believe with reason,
    that Michael Angelo sometimes transgressed those limits; and,
    I think, I have seen figures of him of which it was very
    difficult to determine whether they were in the highest degree
    sublime or extremely ridiculous. Such faults may be said to be
    the ebullitions of genius; but at least he had this merit,
    that he never was insipid, and whatever passion his works may
    excite, they will always escape contempt.

    "What I have had under consideration is the sublimest style,
    particularly that of Michael Angelo, the Homer of painting.
    Other kinds may admit of this naturalness, which of the lowest
    kind is the chief merit; but in painting, as in poetry, the
    highest style has the least of common nature."

From this passage we gather three important indications of the
supposed nature of the Great Style. That it is the work of men in a
state of enthusiasm. That it is like the writing of Homer; and that
it has as little as possible of "common nature" in it.

§ 17. First, it is produced by men in a state of enthusiasm. That
is, by men who feel _strongly_ and _nobly_; for we do not call a
strong feeling of envy, jealousy, or ambition, enthusiasm. That is,
therefore, by men who feel poetically. This much we may admit, I
think, with perfect safety. Great art is produced by men who feel
acutely and nobly; and it is in some sort an expression of this
personal feeling. We can easily conceive that there may be a
sufficiently marked distinction between such art, and that which is
produced by men who do not feel at all, but who reproduce, though
ever so accurately, yet coldly, like human mirrors, the scenes which
pass before their eyes.

§ 18. Secondly, Great Art is like the writing of Homer, and this
chiefly because it has little of "common nature" in it. We are not
clearly informed what is meant by common nature in this passage. Homer
seems to describe a great deal of what is common;--cookery, for
instance, very carefully in all its processes. I suppose the passage
in the Iliad which, on the whole, has excited most admiration, is that
which describes a wife's sorrow at parting from her husband, and a
child's fright at its father's helmet; and I hope, at least, the
former feeling may be considered "common nature." But the true
greatness of Homer's style is, doubtless, held by our author to
consist in his imaginations of things not only uncommon but impossible
(such as spirits in brazen armor, or monsters with heads of men and
bodies of beasts), and in his occasional delineations of the human
character and form in their utmost, or heroic, strength and beauty. We
gather then on the whole, that a painter in the Great Style must be
enthusiastic, or full of emotion, and must paint the human form in its
utmost strength and beauty, and perhaps certain impossible forms
besides, liable by persons not in an equally enthusiastic state of
mind to be looked upon as in some degree absurd. This I presume to be
Reynolds's meaning, and to be all that he intends us to gather from
his comparison of the Great Style with the writings of Homer. But if
that comparison be a just one in all respects, surely two other
corollaries ought to be drawn from it, namely,--first, that these
Heroic or Impossible images are to be mingled with others very
unheroic and very possible; and, secondly, that in the representation
of the Heroic or Impossible forms, the greatest care must be taken in
_finishing the details_, so that a painter must not be satisfied with
painting well the countenance and the body of his hero, but ought to
spend the greatest part of his time (as Homer the greatest number of
verses) in elaborating the sculptured pattern on his shield.

§ 19. Let us, however, proceed with our paper.

    "One may very safely recommend a little more enthusiasm to the
    modern painters; too much is certainly not the vice of the
    present age. The Italians seem to have been continually
    declining in this respect, from the time of Michael Angelo to
    that of Carlo Maratti, and from thence to the very bathos of
    insipidity to which they are now sunk, so that there is no
    need of remarking, that where I mentioned the Italian painters
    in opposition to the Dutch, I mean not the moderns, but the
    heads of the old Roman and Bolognian schools; nor did I mean
    to include, in my idea of an Italian painter, the Venetian
    school, _which may be said to be the Dutch part of the Italian
    genius_. I have only to add a word of advice to the painters,
    that, however excellent they may be in painting naturally,
    they would not flatter themselves very much upon it; and to
    the connoisseurs, that when they see a cat or a fiddle painted
    so finely, that, as the phrase is, it looks as if you could
    take it up, they would not for that reason immediately compare
    the painter to Raffaelle and Michael Angelo."

In this passage there are four points chiefly to be remarked. The
first, that in the year 1759, the Italian painters were, in our
author's opinion, sunk in the very bathos of insipidity. The second,
that the Venetian painters, i.e. Titian, Tintoret, and Veronese,
are, in our author's opinion, to be classed with the Dutch; that is
to say, are painters in a style "in which the slowest intellect is
always sure to succeed best." Thirdly, that painting naturally is
not a difficult thing, nor one on which a painter should pride
himself. And, finally, that connoisseurs, seeing a cat or a fiddle
successfully painted, ought not therefore immediately to compare the
painter to Raphael or Michael Angelo.

Yet Raphael painted fiddles very carefully in the foreground of his
St. Cecilia,--so carefully, that they quite look as if they might be
taken up. So carefully, that I never yet looked at the picture
without wishing that somebody _would_ take them up, and out of the
way. And I am under a very strong persuasion that Raphael did not
think painting "naturally" an easy thing. It will be well to examine
into this point a little; and for the present, with the reader's
permission, we will pass over the first two statements in this
passage (touching the character of Italian art in 1759, and of
Venetian art in general), and immediately examine some of the
evidence existing as to the real dignity of "natural" painting--that
is to say, of painting carried to the point at which it reaches a
deceptive appearance of reality.

  [2] I have put this sentence in a parenthesis, because it is
      inconsistent with the rest of the statement, and with the
      general teaching of the paper; since that which "attends only
      to the invariable" cannot certainly adopt "every ornament that
      will warm the imagination."

  [3] "MM. Mallet et Pictet, se trouvant sur le lac auprès du
      château de Chillon, le 6 Août, 1774, plongèrent à la
      profondeur de 312 pieds de un thermomètre," &c.--SAUSSURE,
      _Voyages dans les Alpes_, chap. ii. § 33. It appears from the
      next paragraph, that the thermometer was "au fond du lac."

  [4] Take, for instance, the beautiful stanza in the "Affliction of

          "I look for ghosts, but none will force
            Their way to me. 'Tis falsely said
          That ever there was intercourse
            Between the living and the dead;
          For, surely then, I should have sight
          Of him I wait for, day and night,
          With love and longing infinite."

      This we call Poetry, because it is invented _or made_ by the
      writer, entering into the mind of a supposed person. Next,
      take an instance of the actual feeling truly experienced and
      simply expressed by a real person.

      "Nothing surprised me more than a woman of Argentière, whose
      cottage I went into to ask for milk, as I came down from the
      glacier of Argentière, in the month of March, 1764. An epidemic
      dysentery had prevailed in the village, and, a few months
      before, had taken away from her, her father, her husband, and
      her brothers, so that she was left alone, with three children in
      the cradle. Her face had something noble in it, and its
      expression bore the seal of a calm and profound sorrow. After
      having given me milk, she asked me whence I came, and what I
      came there to do, so early in the year. When she knew that I was
      of Geneva, she said to me, 'she could not believe that all
      Protestants were lost souls; that there were many honest people
      among us, and that God was too good and too great to condemn all
      without distinction.' Then, after a moment of reflection, she
      added, in shaking her head, 'But, that which is very strange, is
      that of so many who have gone away, none have ever returned. I,'
      she added, with an expression of grief, 'who have so mourned my
      husband and my brothers, who have never ceased to think of them,
      who every night conjure them with beseechings to tell me where
      they are, and in what state they are! Ah, surely, if they lived
      anywhere, they would not leave me thus! But, perhaps,' she
      added, 'I am not worthy of this kindness, perhaps the pure and
      innocent spirits of these children,' and she looked at the
      cradle, 'may have their presence, and the joy which is denied to
      _me_.'"--SAUSSURE, _Voyages dans les Alpes_, chap. xxiv.

      This we do not call Poetry, merely because it is not invented,
      but the true utterance of a real person.



§ 1. In the outset of this inquiry, the reader must thoroughly
understand that we are not now considering _what_ is to be painted,
but _how far_ it is to be painted. Not whether Raphael does right in
representing angels playing upon violins, or whether Veronese does
right in allowing cats and monkeys to join the company of kings: but
whether, supposing the subjects rightly chosen, they ought on the
canvas to look like real angels with real violins, and substantial
cats looking at veritable kings; or only like imaginary angels with
soundless violins, ideal cats, and unsubstantial kings.

Now, from the first moment when painting began to be a subject of
literary inquiry and general criticism, I cannot remember any
writer, not professedly artistical, who has not, more or less, in
one part of his book or another, countenanced the idea that the
great end of art is to produce a deceptive resemblance of reality.
It may be, indeed, that we shall find the writers, through many
pages, explaining principles of ideal beauty, and professing great
delight in the evidences of imagination. But whenever a picture is
to be definitely described,--whenever the writer desires to convey
to others some impression of an extraordinary excellence, all praise
is wound up with some such statements as these: "It was so
exquisitely painted that you expected the figures to move and speak;
you approached the flowers to enjoy their smell, and stretched your
hand towards the fruit which had fallen from the branches. You
shrunk back lest the sword of the warrior should indeed descend, and
turned away your head that you might not witness the agonies of the
expiring martyr!"

§ 2. In a large number of instances, language such as this will be
found to be merely a clumsy effort to convey to others a sense of the
admiration, of which the writer does not understand the real cause in
himself. A person is attracted to a picture by the beauty of its color,
interested by the liveliness of its story, and touched by certain
countenances or details which remind him of friends whom he loved, for
scenes in which he delighted. He naturally supposes that what gives him
so much pleasure must be a notable example of the painter's skill; but
he is ashamed to confess, or perhaps does not know, that he is so much
a child as to be fond of bright colors and amusing incidents; and he is
quite unconscious of the associations which have so secret and
inevitable a power over his heart. He casts about for the cause of his
delight, and can discover no other than that he thought the picture
like reality.

§ 3. In another, perhaps a still larger number of cases, such
language will be found to be that of simple ignorance--the ignorance
of persons whose position in life compels them to speak of art,
without having any real enjoyment of it. It is inexcusably required
from people of the world, that they should see merit in Claudes and
Titians; and the only merit which many persons can either see or
conceive in them is, that they must be "like nature."

§ 4. In other cases, the deceptive power of the art is really felt
to be a source of interest and amusement. This is the case with a
large number of the collectors of Dutch pictures. They enjoy seeing
what is flat made to look round, exactly as a child enjoys a trick
of legerdemain; they rejoice in flies which the spectator vainly
attempts to brush away, and in dew which he endeavors to dry by
putting the picture in the sun. They take it for the greatest
compliment to their treasures that they should be mistaken for
windows; and think the parting of Abraham and Hagar adequately
represented, if Hagar seems to be really crying.

It is against critics and connoisseurs of this latter stamp (of
whom, in the year 1759, the juries of art were for the most part
composed) that the essay of Reynolds, which we have been examining,
was justly directed. But Reynolds had not sufficiently considered
that neither the men of this class, nor of the two other classes
above described, constitute the entire body of those who praise Art
for its realization; and that the holding of this apparently
shallow and vulgar opinion cannot, in all cases, be attributed to
the want either of penetration, sincerity, or sense. The collectors
of Gerard Dows and Hobbimas may be passed by with a smile; and the
affectations of Walpole and simplicities of Vasari dismissed with
contempt or with compassion. But very different men from these have
held precisely the same language; and, one amongst the rest, whose
authority is absolutely, and in all points, overwhelming.

§ 5. There was probably never a period in which the influence of art
over the minds of men seemed to depend less on its merely _imitative_
power, than the close of the thirteenth century. No painting or
sculpture at that time reached more than a rude resemblance of reality.
Its despised perspective, imperfect chiaroscuro, and unrestrained
flights of fantastic imagination, separated the artist's work from
nature by an interval which there was no attempt to disguise, and
little to diminish. And yet, at this very period, the greatest poet of
that, or perhaps of any other age, and the attached friend of its
greatest painter, who must over and over again have held full and free
conversation with him respecting the objects of his art, speaks in the
following terms of painting, supposed to be carried to its highest

      "Qual di pennel fu maestro, e di stile
        Che ritraesse l' ombre, e i tratti, ch' ivi
        Mirar farieno uno ingegno sottile.
      Morti li morti, e i vivi parean vivi:
        Non vide me' di me, chi vide il vero,
        Quant' io calcai, fin che chinato givi."
                                 DANTE, _Purgatorio_, canto xii. 1. 64

      'What master of the pencil, or the style,
      Had traced the shades and lines that might have made
      The subtlest workman wonder? _Dead, the dead,
      The living seemed alive; with clearer view
      His eye beheld not, who beheld the truth._
      Than mine what I did tread on, while I went,
      Low bending.'                            CAREY.

Dante has here clearly no other idea of the highest art than that it
should bring back, as in a mirror or vision, the aspect of things
passed or absent. The scenes of which he speaks are, on the pavement,
for ever represented by angelic power, so that the souls which traverse
this circle of the rock may see them, as if the years of the world had
been rolled back, and they again stood beside the actors in the moment
of action. Nor do I think that Dante's authority is absolutely
necessary to compel us to admit that such art as this _might_ indeed be
the highest possible. Whatever delight we may have been in the habit of
taking in pictures, if it were but truly offered to us, to remove at
our will the canvas from the frame, and in lieu of it to behold, fixed
for ever, the image of some of those mighty scenes which it has been
our way to make mere themes for the artist's fancy; if, for instance,
we could again behold the Magdalene receiving her pardon at Christ's
feet, or the disciples sitting with Him at the table of Emmaus; and
this not feebly nor fancifully, but as if some silver mirror, that had
leaned against the wall of the chamber, had been miraculously commanded
to retain for ever the colors that had flashed upon it for an
instant,--would we not part with our picture--Titian's or Veronese's
though it might be?

§ 6. Yes, the reader answers, in the instance of such scenes as
these, but not if the scene represented were uninteresting. Not,
indeed, if it were utterly vulgar or painful; but we are not yet
certain that the art which represents what is vulgar or painful is
itself of much value; and with respect to the art whose aim is
beauty, even of an inferior order, it seems that Dante's idea of its
perfection has still much evidence in its favor. For among persons
of native good sense, and courage enough to speak their minds, we
shall often find a considerable degree of doubt as to the use of
art, in consequence of their habitual comparison of it with reality.
"What is the use, to me, of the painted landscape?" they will ask:
"I see more beautiful and perfect landscapes every day of my life in
my forenoon walk." "What is the use, to me, of the painted effigy of
hero or beauty? I can see a stamp of higher heroism, and light of
purer beauty, on the faces around me, utterly inexpressible by the
highest human skill." Now, it is evident that to persons of this
temper the only valuable pictures would indeed be _mirrors_,
reflecting permanently the images of the things in which they took
delight, and of the faces that they loved. "Nay," but the reader
interrupts, (if he is of the Idealist school) "I deny that more
beautiful things are to be seen in nature than in art; on the
contrary, everything in nature is faulty, and art represents nature
as perfected." Be it so. Must, therefore, this perfected nature be
imperfectly represented? Is it absolutely required of the painter,
who has conceived perfection, that he should so paint it as to look
only like a picture? Or is not Dante's view of the matter right even
here, and would it not be well that the perfect conception of Pallas
should be so given as to look like Pallas herself, rather than
merely like the picture of Pallas?

§ 7. It is not easy for us to answer this question rightly, owing to
the difficulty of imagining any art which should reach the perfection
supposed. Our actual powers of imitation are so feeble that wherever
deception is attempted, a subject of a comparatively low or confined
order must be chosen. I do not enter at present into the inquiry how
far the powers of imitation extend; but assuredly up to the present
period they have been so limited that it is hardly possible for us to
conceive a deceptive art embracing a high range of subject. But let
the reader make the effort, and consider seriously what he would give
at any moment to have the power of arresting the fairest scenes, those
which so often rise before him only to vanish; to stay the cloud in
its fading, the leaf in its trembling, and the shadows in their
changing; to bid the fitful foam be fixed upon the river, and the
ripples be everlasting upon the lake; and then to bear away with him
no darkened or feeble sun-stain (though even that is beautiful), but a
counterfeit which should seem no counterfeit--the true and perfect
image of life indeed. Or rather (for the full majesty of such a power
is not thus sufficiently expressed) let him consider that it would be
in effect nothing else than a capacity of transporting himself at any
moment into any scene--a gift as great as can be possessed by a
disembodied spirit': and suppose, also, this necromancy embracing not
only the present but the past, and enabling us seemingly to enter into
the very bodily presence of men long since gathered to the dust; to
behold them in act as they lived, but--with greater privilege than
ever was granted to the companions of those transient acts of
life,--to see them fastened at our will in the gesture and expression
of an instant, and stayed, on the eve of some great deed, in
immortality of burning purpose. Conceive, so far as it is possible,
such power as this, and then say whether the art which conferred it is
to be spoken lightly of, or whether we should not rather reverence, as
half divine, a gift which would go so far as to raise us into the
rank, and invest us with the felicities, of angels?

Yet such would imitative art be in its perfection. Not by any means
an easy thing, as Reynolds supposes it. Far from being easy, it is
so utterly beyond all human power that we have difficulty even in
conceiving its nature or results--the best art we as yet possess
comes so far short of it.

§ 8. But we must not rashly come to the conclusion that such art would,
indeed, be the highest possible. There is much to be considered
hereafter on the other side; the only conclusion we are as yet
warranted in forming is, that Reynolds had no right to speak lightly or
contemptuously of imitative art; that in fact, when he did so, he had
not conceived its entire nature, but was thinking of some vulgar
conditions of it, which were the only ones known to him, and that,
therefore, his whole endeavor to explain the difference between great
and mean art has been disappointed; that he has involved himself in a
crowd of theories, whose issue he had not foreseen, and committed
himself to conclusions which he never intended. There is an instinctive
consciousness in his own mind of the difference between high and low
art; but he is utterly incapable of explaining it, and every effort
which he makes to do so involves him in unexpected fallacy and
absurdity. It is _not_ true that Poetry does not concern herself with
minute details. It is _not_ true that high art seeks only the
Invariable. It is _not_ true that imitative art is an easy thing. It is
_not_ true that the faithful rendering of nature is an employment in
which "the slowest intellect is likely to succeed best." All these
successive assertions are utterly false and untenable, while the plain
truth, a truth lying at the very door, has all the while escaped
him,--that which was incidentally stated in the preceding
chapter,--namely, that the difference between great and mean art lies,
not in definable methods of handling, or styles of representation, or
choices of subjects, but wholly in the nobleness of the end to which
the effort of the painter is addressed. We cannot say that a painter is
great because he paints boldly, or paints delicately; because he
generalizes or particularizes; because he loves detail, or because he
disdains it. He is great if, by any of these means, he has laid open
noble truths, or aroused noble emotions. It does not matter whether he
paint the petal of a rose, or the chasms of a precipice, so that Love
and Admiration attend him as he labors, and wait for ever upon his
work. It does not matter whether he toil for months upon a few inches
of his canvas, or cover a palace front with color in a day, so only
that it be with a solemn purpose that he has filled his heart with
patience, or urged his hand to haste. And it does not matter whether he
seek for his subjects among peasants or nobles, among the heroic or the
simple, in courts or in fields, so only that he behold all things with
a thirst for beauty, and a hatred of meanness and vice. There are,
indeed, certain methods of representation which are usually adopted by
the most active minds, and certain characters of subject usually
delighted in by the noblest hearts; but it is quite possible, quite
easy, to adopt the manner of painting without sharing the activity of
mind, and to imitate the choice of subject without possessing the
nobility of spirit; while, on the other hand, it is altogether
impossible to foretell on what strange objects the strength of a great
man will sometimes be concentrated, or by what strange means he will
sometimes express himself. So that true criticism of art never can
consist in the mere application of rules; it can be just only when it
is founded on quick sympathy with the innumerable instincts and
changeful efforts of human nature, chastened and guided by unchanging
love of all things that God has created to be beautiful, and pronounced
to be good.



§ 1. I doubt not that the reader was ill-satisfied with the conclusion
arrived at in the last chapter. That "great art" is art which
represents what is beautiful and good, may not seem a very profound
discovery; and the main question may be thought to have been all the
time lost sight of, namely, "What is beautiful, and what is good?" No;
those are not the main, at least not the first questions; on the
contrary, our subject becomes at once opened and simplified as soon as
we have left those the _only_ questions. For observe, our present task,
according to our old plan, is merely to investigate the relative
degrees of the _beautiful_ in the art of different masters; and it is
an encouragement to be convinced, first of all, that what is lovely
will also be great, and what is pleasing, noble. Nor is the conclusion
so much a matter of course as it at first appears, for, surprising as
the statement may seem, all the confusion into which Reynolds has
plunged both himself and his readers, in the essay we have been
examining, results primarily from a doubt in his own mind _as to the
existence of beauty at all_. In the next paper I alluded to, No. 82
(which needs not, however, to be examined at so great length), he
calmly attributes the whole influence of beauty to custom, saying, that
"he has no doubt, if we were more used to deformity than to beauty,
deformity would then lose the idea now annexed to it, and take that of
beauty; as if the whole world shall agree that Yes and No should change
their meanings. Yes would then deny, and No would affirm!"

§ 2. The world does, indeed, succeed--oftener than is, perhaps,
altogether well for the world--in making Yes mean No, and No mean
Yes.[5] But the world has never succeeded, nor ever will, in making
itself delight in black clouds more than in blue sky, or love the dark
earth better than the rose that grows from it. Happily for mankind,
beauty and ugliness are as positive in their nature as physical pain
and pleasure, as light and darkness, or as life and death; and, though
they may be denied or misunderstood in many fantastic ways, the most
subtle reasoner will at last find that color and sweetness are still
attractive to him, and that no logic will enable him to think the
rainbow sombre, or the violet scentless. But the theory that beauty was
merely a result of custom was very common in Johnson's time. Goldsmith
has, I think, expressed it with more force and wit than any other
writer, in various passages of the Citizen of the World. And it was,
indeed, a curious retribution of the folly of the world of art, which
for some three centuries had given itself recklessly to the pursuit of
beauty, that at last it should be led to deny the very existence of
what it had so morbidly and passionately sought. It was as if a child
should leave its home to pursue the rainbow, and then, breathless and
hopeless, declare that it did not exist. Nor is the lesson less useful
which may be gained in observing the adoption of such a theory by
Reynolds himself. It shows how completely an artist may be unconscious
of the principles of his own work, and how he may be led by instinct to
_do_ all that is right, while he is misled by false logic to _say_ all
that is wrong. For nearly every word that Reynolds wrote was contrary
to his own practice; he seems to have been born to teach all error by
his precept, and all excellence by his example; he enforced with his
lips generalization and idealism, while with his pencil he was tracing
the patterns of the dresses of the belles of his day; he exhorted his
pupils to attend only to the invariable, while he himself was occupied
in distinguishing every variation of womanly temper; and he denied the
existence of the beautiful, at the same instant that he arrested it as
it passed, and perpetuated it for ever.

§ 3. But we must not quit the subject here. However inconsistently or
dimly expressed, there is, indeed, some truth in that commonly
accepted distinction between high and low art. That a thing should be
beautiful is not enough; there is, as we said in the outset, a higher
and lower range of beauty, and some ground for separating into various
and unequal ranks painters who have, nevertheless, each in his
several way, represented something that was beautiful or good.

Nor, if we would, can we get rid of this conviction. We have at all
times some instinctive sense that the function of one painter is
greater than that of another, even supposing each equally successful
in his own way; and we feel that, if it were possible to conquer
prejudice, and do away with the iniquities of personal feeling, and
the insufficiencies of limited knowledge, we should all agree in this
estimate, and be able to place each painter in his right rank,
measuring them by a true scale of nobleness. We feel that the men in
the higher classes of the scale would be, in the full sense of the
word, Great--men whom one would give much to see the faces of but for
an instant; and that those in the lower classes of the scale (though
none were admitted but who had true merit of some kind) would be very
small men, not greatly exciting either reverence or curiosity. And
with this fixed instinct in our minds, we permit our teachers daily to
exhort their pupils to the cultivation of "great art"--neither they
nor we having any very clear notion as to what the greatness consists
in: but sometimes inclining to think it must depend on the space of
the canvas, and that art on a scale of 6 feet by 10 is something
spiritually separated from that on a scale of 3 feet by 5;--sometimes
holding it to consist in painting the nude body, rather than the body
decently clothed;--sometimes being convinced that it is connected with
the study of past history, and that the art is only great which
represents what the painter never saw, and about which he knows
nothing;-and sometimes being firmly persuaded that it consists in
generally finding fault with, and endeavoring to mend, whatsoever the
Divine Wisdom has made. All which various errors, having yet some
motes and atoms of truth in the make of each of them, deserve some
attentive analysis, for they come under that general law,--that "the
corruption of the best is the worst." There are not _worse_ errors
going than these four; and yet the truth they contain, and the
instinct which urges many to preach them, are at the root of all
healthy growth in art. We ruin one young painter after another by
telling him to follow great art, without knowing, ourselves, what
greatness is; and yet the feeling that it verily _is_ something, and
that there are depths and breadths, shallows and narrows, in the
matter, is all that we have to look to, if we would ever make our art
serviceable to ourselves or others. To follow art for the sake of
being a great man, and therefore to cast about continually for some
means of achieving position or attracting admiration, is the surest
way of ending in total extinction. And yet it is only by honest
reverence for art itself, and by great self-respect in the practice of
it, that it can be rescued from dilettantism, raised to approved
honorableness, and brought to the proper work it has to accomplish in
the service of man.

§ 4. Let us therefore look into the facts of the thing, not with any
metaphysical, or otherwise vain and troublesome effort at acuteness,
but in a plain way; for the facts themselves are plain enough, and
may be plainly stated, only the difficulty is that out of these
facts, right and left, the different forms of misapprehension branch
into grievous complexity, and branch so far and wide, that if once
we try to follow them, they will lead us quite from our mark into
other separate, though not less interesting discussions. The best
way will be, therefore, I think, to sketch out at once in this
chapter, the different characters which really constitute
"greatness" of style, and to indicate the principal directions of
the outbranching misapprehensions of them; then, in the succeeding
chapters, to take up in succession those which need more talk about
them, and follow out at leisure whatever inquiries they may suggest.

§ 5. I. CHOICE OF NOBLE SUBJECT.--Greatness of style consists, then:
first, in the habitual choice of subjects of thought which involve wide
interests and profound passions, as opposed to those which involve
narrow interests and slight passions. The style is greater or less in
exact proportion to the nobleness of the interests and passions
involved in the subject. The habitual choice of sacred subjects, such
as the Nativity, Transfiguration, Crucifixion (if the choice be
sincere), implies that the painter has a natural disposition to dwell
on the highest thoughts of which humanity is capable; it constitutes
him so far forth a painter of the highest order, as, for instance,
Leonardo, in his painting of the Last Supper: he who delights in
representing the acts or meditations of great men, as, for instance,
Raphael painting the School of Athens, is, so far forth, a painter of
the second order: he who represents the passions and events of ordinary
life, of the third. And in this ordinary life, he who represents deep
thoughts and sorrows, as, for instance, Hunt, in his Claudio and
Isabella, and such other works, is of the highest rank in his sphere;
and he who represents the slight malignities and passions of the
drawingroom, as, for instance, Leslie, of the second rank: he who
represents the sports of boys or simplicities of clowns, as Webster or
Teniers, of the third rank; and he who represents brutalities and vices
(for delight in them, and not for rebuke of them), of no rank at all,
or rather of a negative rank, holding a certain order in the abyss.

§ 6. The reader will, I hope, understand how much importance is to be
attached to the sentence in the first parenthesis, "if the choice be
sincere;" for choice of subject is, of course, only available as a
criterion of the rank of the painter, when it is made from the heart.
Indeed, in the lower orders of painting, the choice is always made
from such heart as the painter has; for his selection of the brawls of
peasants or sports of children can, of course, proceed only from the
fact that he has more sympathy with such brawls or pastimes than with
nobler subjects. But the choice of the higher kind of subjects is
often insincere; and may, therefore, afford no real criterion of the
painter's rank. The greater number of men who have lately painted
religious or heroic subjects have done so in mere ambition, because
they had been taught that it was a good thing to be a "high art"
painter; and the fact is that, in nine cases out of ten, the so-called
historical or "high-art" painter is a person infinitely inferior to
the painter of flowers or still life. He is, in modern times, nearly
always a man who has great vanity without pictorial capacity, and
differs from the landscape or fruit painter merely in misunderstanding
and over-estimating his own powers. He mistakes his vanity for
inspiration, his ambition for greatness of soul, and takes pleasure in
what he calls "the ideal," merely because he has neither humility nor
capacity enough to comprehend the real.

§ 7. But also observe, it is not enough even that the choice be
sincere. It must also be wise. It happens very often that a man of weak
intellect, sincerely desiring to do what is good and useful, will
devote himself to high art subjects because he thinks them the only
ones on which time and toil can be usefully spent, or, sometimes,
because they are really the only ones he has pleasure in contemplating.
But not having intellect enough to enter into the minds of truly great
men, or to imagine great events as they really happened, he cannot
become a great painter; he degrades the subjects he intended to honor,
and his work is more utterly thrown away, and his rank as an artist in
reality lower, than if he had devoted himself to the imitation of the
simplest objects of natural history. The works of Overbeck are a most
notable instance of this form of error.

§ 8. It must also be remembered, that in nearly all the great periods
of art the choice of subject has not been left to the painter. His
employer,--abbot, baron, or monarch,--determined for him whether he
should earn his bread by making cloisters bright with choirs of
saints, painting coats of arms on leaves of romances, or decorating
presence-chambers with complimentary mythology; and his own personal
feelings are ascertainable only by watching, in the themes assigned to
him, what are the points in which he seems to take most pleasure.
Thus, in the prolonged ranges of varied subjects with which Benozzo
Gozzoli decorated the cloisters of Pisa, it is easy to see that love
of simple domestic incident, sweet landscape, and glittering ornament,
prevails slightly over the solemn elements of religious feeling,
which, nevertheless, the spirit of the age instilled into him in such
measure as to form a very lovely and noble mind, though still one of
the second order. In the work of Orcagna, an intense solemnity and
energy in the sublimest groups of his figures, fading away as he
touches inferior subjects, indicates that his home was among the
archangels, and his rank among the first of the sons of men: while
Correggio, in the sidelong grace, artificial smiles, and purple
languors of his saints, indicates the inferior instinct which would
have guided his choice in quite other directions, had it not been for
the fashion of the age, and the need of the day.

§ 9. It will follow, of course, from the above considerations, that
the choice which characterises the school of high art is seen as
much in the treatment of a subject as in its selection, and that the
expression of the thoughts of the persons represented will always
be the first thing considered by the painter who worthily enters
that highest school. For the artist who sincerely chooses the
noblest subject will also choose chiefly to represent what makes
that subject noble, namely, the various heroism or other noble
emotions of the persons represented. If, instead of this, the artist
seeks only to make his picture agreeable by the composition of its
masses and colors, or by any other merely pictorial merit, as fine
drawing of limbs, it is evident, not only that any other subject
would have answered his purpose as well, but that he is unfit to
approach the subject he has chosen, because he cannot enter into its
deepest meaning, and therefore cannot in reality have chosen it for
that meaning. Nevertheless, while the expression is always to be the
first thing considered, all other merits must be added to the utmost
of the painter's power: for until he can both color and draw
beautifully he has no business to consider himself a painter at all,
far less to attempt the noblest subjects of painting; and, when he
has once possessed himself of these powers, he will naturally and
fitly employ them to deepen and perfect the impression made by the
sentiment of his subject.

The perfect unison of expression, as the painter's main purpose,
with the full and natural exertion of his pictorial power in the
details of the work, is found only in the old Pre-Raphaelite
periods, and in the modern Pre-Raphaelite school. In the works of
Giotto, Angelico, Orcagna, John Bellini, and one or two more, these
two conditions of high art are entirely fulfilled, so far as the
knowledge of those days enabled them to be fulfilled; and in the
modern Pre-Raphaelite school they are fulfilled nearly to the
uttermost. Hunt's Light of the World is, I believe, the most perfect
instance of expressional purpose with technical power, which the
world has yet produced.

§ 10. Now in the Post Raphaelite period of ancient art, and in the
spurious high art of modern times, two broad forms of error divide
the schools; the one consisting in (A) the superseding of expression
by technical excellence, and the other in (B) the superseding of
technical excellence by expression.

(A). Superseding expression by technical excellence.--This takes place
most frankly, and therefore most innocently, in the work of the
Venetians. They very nearly ignore expression altogether, directing
their aim exclusively to the rendering of external truths of color and
form. Paul Veronese will make the Magdalene wash the feet of Christ
with a countenance as absolutely unmoved as that of any ordinary
servant bringing a ewer to her master, and will introduce the supper
at Emmaus as a background to the portraits of two children playing
with a dog. Of the wrongness or rightness of such a proceeding we
shall reason in another place; at present we have to note it merely as
displacing the Venetian work from the highest or expressional rank of
art. But the error is generally made in a more subtle and dangerous
way. The artist deceives himself into the idea that he is doing all he
can to elevate his subject by treating it under rules of art,
introducing into it accurate science, and collecting for it the
beauties of (so-called) ideal form; whereas he may, in reality, be all
the while sacrificing his subject to his own vanity or pleasure, and
losing truth, nobleness, and impressiveness for the sake of delightful
lines or creditable pedantries.

§ 11. (B). Superseding technical excellence by expression.--This is
usually done under the influence of another kind of vanity. The
artist desires that men should think he has an elevated soul,
affects to despise the ordinary excellence of art, contemplates with
separated egotism the course of his own imaginations or sensations,
and refuses to look at the real facts round about him, in order that
he may adore at leisure the shadow of himself. He lives in an
element of what he calls tender emotions and lofty aspirations;
which are, in fact, nothing more than very ordinary weaknesses or
instincts, contemplated through a mist of pride. A large range of
modern German art comes under this head.

A more interesting and respectable form of this error is fallen into by
some truly earnest men, who, finding their powers not adequate to the
attainment of great artistical excellence, but adequate to rendering,
up to a certain point, the expression of the human countenance, devote
themselves to that object alone, abandoning effort in other directions,
and executing the accessaries of their pictures feebly or carelessly.
With these are associated another group of philosophical painters, who
suppose the artistical merits of other parts _adverse_ to the
expression, as drawing the spectator's attention away from it, and who
paint in grey color, and imperfect light and shade, by way of enforcing
the purity of their conceptions. Both these classes of conscientious
but narrow-minded artists labor under the same grievous mistake of
imagining that wilful fallacy can ever be either pardonable or helpful.
They forget that color, if used at all, must be either true or false,
and that what _they_ call chastity, dignity, and reserve, is, to the
eye of any person accustomed to nature, pure, bold, and impertinent
falsehood. It does not, in the eyes of any soundly minded man, exalt
the expression of a female face that the cheeks should be painted of
the color of clay, nor does it in the least enhance his reverence for a
saint to find the scenery around him deprived, by his presence, of
sunshine. It is an important consolation, however, to reflect that no
artist ever fell into any of these last three errors (under head B.)
who had really the capacity of becoming a great painter. No man ever
despised color who could produce it; and the error of these
sentimentalists and philosophers is not so much in the choice of their
manner of painting, as in supposing themselves capable of painting at
all. Some of them might have made efficient sculptors, but the greater
number had their mission in some other sphere than that of art, and
would have found, in works of practical charity, better employment for
their gentleness and sentimentalism, than in denying to human beauty
its color, and to natural scenery its light; in depriving heaven of its
blue, and earth of its bloom, valor of its glow, and modesty of its

§ 12. II. LOVE OF BEAUTY.--The second characteristic of the great
school of art is, that it introduces in the conception of its
subject as much beauty as is possible, consistently with truth.[6]

For instance, in any subject consisting of a number of figures, it
will make as many of those figures beautiful as the faithful
representation of humanity will admit. It will not deny the facts of
ugliness or decrepitude, or relative inferiority and superiority of
feature as necessarily manifested in a crowd, but it will, so far as
it is in its power, seek for and dwell upon the fairest forms, and
in all things insist on the beauty that is in them, not on the
ugliness. In this respect, schools of art become higher in exact
proportion to the degree in which they apprehend and love the
beautiful. Thus, Angelico, intensely loving all spiritual beauty,
will be of the highest rank; and Paul Veronese and Correggio,
intensely loving physical and corporeal beauty, of the second rank;
and Albert Durer, Rubens, and in general the Northern artists,
apparently insensible to beauty, and caring only for truth, whether
shapely or not, of the third rank; and Teniers and Salvator,
Caravaggio, and other such worshippers of the depraved, of no rank,
or, as we said before, of a certain order in the abyss.

§ 13. The corruption of the schools of high art, so far as this
particular quality is concerned, consists in the sacrifice of truth
to beauty. Great art dwells on all that is beautiful; but false art
omits or changes all that is ugly. Great art accepts Nature as she
is, but directs the eyes and thoughts to what is most perfect in
her; false art saves itself the trouble of direction by removing or
altering whatever it thinks objectionable. The evil results of which
proceeding are twofold.

[Sidenote: § 14. Evil first,--that we lose the true _force_ of beauty.]

First. That beauty deprived of its proper foils and adjuncts ceases
to be enjoyed as beauty, just as light deprived of all shadow ceases
to be enjoyed as light. A white canvas cannot produce an effect of
sunshine; the painter must darken it in some places before he can
make it look luminous in others; nor can an uninterrupted succession
of beauty produce the true effect of beauty; it must be foiled by
inferiority before its own power can be developed. Nature has for
the most part mingled her inferior and nobler elements as she
mingles sunshine with shade, giving due use and influence to both,
and the painter who chooses to remove the shadow, perishes in the
burning desert he has created. The truly high and beautiful art of
Angelico is continually refreshed and strengthened by his frank
portraiture of the most ordinary features of his brother monks, and
of the recorded peculiarities of ungainly sanctity; but the modern
German and Raphaelesque schools lose all honor and nobleness in
barber-like admiration of handsome faces, and have, in fact, no real
faith except in straight noses and curled hair. Paul Veronese
opposes the dwarf to the soldier, and the negress to the queen;
Shakspere places Caliban beside Miranda, and Autolycus beside
Perdita; but the vulgar idealist withdraws his beauty to the safety
of the saloon, and his innocence to the seclusion of the cloister;
he pretends that he does this in delicacy of choice and purity of
sentiment, while in truth he has neither courage to front the
monster, nor wit enough to furnish the knave.

[Sidenote: § 15. Evil second,--we lose the true _quantity_ of beauty.]

It is only by the habit of representing faithfully all things, that
we can truly learn what is beautiful and what is not. The ugliest
objects contain some element of beauty; and in all, it is an element
peculiar to themselves, which cannot be separated from their
ugliness, but must either be enjoyed together with it, or not at
all. The more a painter accepts nature as he finds it, the more
unexpected beauty he discovers in what he at first despised; but
once let him arrogate the right of rejection, and he will gradually
contract his circle of enjoyment, until what he supposed to be
nobleness of selection ends in narrowness of perception. Dwelling
perpetually upon one class of ideas, his art becomes at once
monstrous and morbid; until at last he cannot faithfully represent
even what he chooses to retain; his discrimination contracts into
darkness, and his fastidiousness fades into fatuity.

High art, therefore, consists neither in altering, nor in improving
nature; but in seeking throughout nature for "whatsoever things are
lovely, and whatsoever things are pure;" in loving these, in
displaying to the utmost of the painter's power such loveliness as
is in them, and directing the thoughts of others to them by winning
art, or gentle emphasis. Of the degree in which this can be done,
and in which it may be permitted to gather together, without
falsifying, the finest forms or thoughts, so as to create a sort of
perfect vision, we shall have to speak hereafter: at present, it is
enough to remember that art (_cæteris paribus_) is great in exact
proportion to the love of beauty shown by the painter, provided that
love of beauty forfeit no atom of truth.

§ 16. III. SINCERITY.--The next[7] characteristic of great art is that
it includes the largest possible quantity of Truth in the most perfect
possible harmony. If it were possible for art to give all the truths of
nature, it ought to do it. But this is not possible. Choice must always
be made of some facts which _can_ be represented, from among others
which must be passed by in silence, or even, in some respects,
misrepresented. The inferior artist chooses unimportant and scattered
truths; the great artist chooses the most necessary first, and
afterwards the most consistent with these, so as to obtain the greatest
possible and most harmonious _sum_. For instance, Rembrandt always
chooses to represent the exact force with which the light on the most
illumined part of an object is opposed to its obscurer portions. In
order to obtain this, in most cases, not very important truth, he
sacrifices the light and color of five sixths of his picture; and the
expression of every character of objects which depends on tenderness of
shape or tint. But he obtains his single truth, and what picturesque
and forcible expression is dependent upon it, with magnificent skill
and subtlety. Veronese, on the contrary, chooses to represent the great
relations of visible things to each other, to the heaven above, and to
the earth beneath them. He holds it more important to show how a figure
stands relieved from delicate air, or marble wall; how as a red, or
purple, or white figure, it separates itself, in clear discernibility,
from things not red, nor purple, nor white; how infinite daylight
shines round it; how innumerable veils of faint shadow invest it; how
its blackness and darkness are, in the excess of their nature, just as
limited and local as its intensity of light: all this, I say, he feels
to be more important than showing merely the exact _measure_ of the
spark of sunshine that gleams on a dagger-hilt, or glows on a jewel.
All this, moreover, he feels to be harmonious,--capable of being joined
in one great system of spacious truth. And with inevitable
watchfulness, inestimable subtlety, he unites all this in tenderest
balance, noting in each hair's-breadth of color, not merely what its
rightness or wrongness is in itself, but what its relation is to every
other on his canvas; restraining, for truth's sake, his exhaustless
energy, reining back, for truth's sake, his fiery strength; veiling,
before truth, the vanity of brightness; penetrating, for truth, the
discouragement of gloom; ruling his restless invention with a rod of
iron; pardoning no error, no thoughtlessness, no forgetfulness; and
subduing all his powers, impulses, and imaginations, to the arbitrament
of a merciless justice, and the obedience of an incorruptible verity.

[Sidenote: § 17. Corollary 1st: great art is generally distinct.]

I give this instance with respect to color and shade; but, in the whole
field of art, the difference between the great and inferior artists is
of the same kind, and may be determined at once by the question, which
of them conveys the largest sum of truth? It follows from this
principle, that in general all _great_ drawing is _distinct_ drawing;
for truths which are rendered indistinctly might, for the most part, as
well not be rendered at all. There are, indeed, certain facts of
mystery, and facts of indistinctness, in all objects, which must have
their proper place in the general harmony, and the reader will
presently find me, when we come to that part of our investigation,
telling him that all good drawing must in some sort be _in_distinct. We
may, however, understand this apparent contradiction, by reflecting
that the highest knowledge always involves a more advanced perception
of the fields of the unknown; and, therefore, it may most truly be
said, that to know anything well involves a profound sensation of
ignorance, while yet it is equally true that good and noble knowledge
is distinguished from vain and useless knowledge chiefly by its
clearness and distinctness, and by the vigorous consciousness of what
is known and what is not.

So in art. The best drawing involves a wonderful perception and
expression of indistinctness; and yet all noble drawing is separated
from the ignoble by its distinctness, by its fine expression and
firm assertion of _Something_; whereas the bad drawing, without
either firmness or fineness, expresses and asserts _Nothing_. The
first thing, therefore, to be looked for as a sign of noble art, is
a clear consciousness of what is drawn and what is not; the bold
statement, and frank confession--"_This_ I know," "_that_ I know
not;" and, generally speaking, all haste, slurring, obscurity,
indecision, are signs of low art, and all calmness, distinctness,
luminousness, and positiveness, of high art.

[Sidenote: § 18. Corollary 2d: Great art is generally large in masses
and in scale.]

It follows, secondly, from this principle, that as the great painter
is always attending to the sum and harmony of his truths rather than
to one or the other of any group, a quality of Grasp is visible in his
work, like the power of a great reasoner over his subject, or a great
poet over his conception, manifesting itself very often in missing out
certain details or less truths (which, though good in themselves, he
finds are in the way of others), and in a sweeping manner of getting
the beginnings and ends of things shown at once, and the squares and
depths rather than the surfaces: hence, on the whole, a habit of
looking at large masses rather than small ones; and even a physical
largeness of handling, and love of working, if possible, on a large
scale; and various other qualities, more or less imperfectly expressed
by such technical terms as breadth, massing, unity, boldness, &c., all
of which are, indeed, great qualities when they mean breadth of truth,
weight of truth, unity of truth, and courageous assertion of truth;
but which have all their correlative errors and mockeries, almost
universally mistaken for them,--the breadth which has no contents, the
weight which has no value, the unity which plots deception, and the
boldness which faces out fallacy.

§ 19. And it is to be noted especially respecting largeness of
scale, that though for the most part it is characteristic of the
more powerful masters, they having both more invention wherewith to
fill space (as Ghirlandajo wished that he might paint all the walls
of Florence), and, often, an impetuosity of mind which makes them
like free play for hand and arm (besides that they usually desire to
paint everything in the foreground of their picture of the natural
size), yet, as this largeness of scale involves the placing of the
picture at a considerable distance from the eye, and this distance
involves the loss of many delicate details, and especially of the
subtle lines of expression in features, it follows that the masters
of refined detail and human expression are apt to prefer a small
scale to work upon; so that the chief masterpieces of expression
which the world possesses are small pictures by Angelico, in which
the figures are rarely more than six or seven inches high; in the
best works of Raphael and Leonardo the figures are almost always
less than life, and the best works of Turner do not exceed the size
of 18 inches by 12.

[Sidenote: § 20. Corollary 3d: Great art is always delicate.]

As its greatness depends on the sum of truth, and this sum of truth
can always be increased by delicacy of handling, it follows that all
great art must have this delicacy to the utmost possible degree.
This rule is infallible and inflexible. All coarse work is the sign
of low art. Only, it is to be remembered, that coarseness must be
estimated by the distance from the eye; it being necessary to
consult this distance, when great, by laying on touches which appear
coarse when seen near; but which, so far from being coarse, are, in
reality, more delicate in a master's work than the finest close
handling, for they involve a calculation of result, and are laid on
with a subtlety of sense precisely correspondent to that with which
a good archer draws his bow; the spectator seeing in the action
nothing but the strain of the strong arm, while there is, in
reality, in the finger and eye, an ineffably delicate estimate of
distance, and touch on the arrow plume. And, indeed, this delicacy
is generally quite perceptible to those who know what the truth is,
for strokes by Tintoret or Paul Veronese, which were done in an
instant, and look to an ignorant spectator merely like a violent
dash of loaded color, (and are, as such, imitated by blundering
artists,) are, in fact, modulated by the brush and finger to that
degree of delicacy that no single grain of the color could be taken
from the touch without injury; and little golden particles of it,
not the size of a gnat's head, have important share and function in
the balances of light in a picture perhaps fifty feet long. Nearly
_every_ other rule applicable to art has some exception but this.
This has absolutely none. All great art is delicate art, and all
coarse art is bad art. Nay, even to a certain extent, all _bold_ art
is bad art; for boldness is not the proper word to apply to the
courage and swiftness of a great master, based on knowledge, and
coupled with fear and love. There is as much difference between the
boldness of the true and the false masters, as there is between the
courage of a pure woman and the shamelessness of a lost one.

§ 21. IV. INVENTION.--The last characteristic of great art is that
it must be inventive, that is, be produced by the imagination. In
this respect, it must precisely fulfil the definition already given
of poetry; and not only present grounds for noble emotion, but
furnish these grounds by _imaginative power_. Hence there is at once
a great bar fixed between the two schools of Lower and Higher Art.
The lower merely copies what is set before it, whether in portrait,
landscape, or still-life; the higher either entirely imagines its
subject, or arranges the materials presented to it, so as to
manifest the imaginative power in all the three phases which have
been already explained in the second volume.

And this was the truth which was confusedly present in Reynolds's
mind when he spoke, as above quoted, of the difference between
Historical and Poetical Painting. _Every relation of the plain facts
which the painter saw_ is proper _historical_ painting.[8] If those
facts are unimportant (as that he saw a gambler quarrel with another
gambler, or a sot enjoying himself with another sot), then the
history is trivial; if the facts are important (as that he saw such
and such a great man look thus, or act thus, at such a time), then
the history is noble: in each case perfect truth of narrative being
supposed, otherwise the whole thing is worthless, being neither
history nor poetry, but plain falsehood. And farther, as greater or
less elegance and precision are manifested in the relation or
painting of the incidents, the merit of the work varies; so that,
what with difference of subject, and what with difference of
treatment, historical painting falls or rises in changeful eminence,
from Dutch trivialities to a Velasquez portrait, just as historical
talking or writing varies in eminence, from an old woman's
story-telling up to Herodotus. Besides which, certain operations of
the imagination come into play inevitably, here and there, so as to
touch the history with some light of poetry, that is, with some
light shot forth of the narrator's mind, or brought out by the way
he has put the accidents together; and wherever the imagination has
thus had anything to do with the matter at all (and it must be
somewhat cold work where it has not), then, the confines of the
lower and higher schools touching each other, the work is colored by
both; but there is no reason why, therefore, we should in the least
confuse the historical and poetical characters, any more than that
we should confuse blue with crimson, because they may overlap each
other, and produce purple.

§ 22. Now, historical or simply narrative art is very precious in its
proper place and way, but it is never _great_ art until the poetical
or imaginative power touches it; and in proportion to the stronger
manifestation of this power, it becomes greater and greater, while the
highest art is purely imaginative, all its materials being wrought
into their form by invention; and it differs, therefore, from the
simple historical painting, exactly as Wordsworth's stanza, above
quoted, differs from Saussure's plain narrative of the parallel fact;
and the imaginative painter differs from the historical painter in the
manner that Wordsworth differs from Saussure.

§ 23. Farther, imaginative art always _includes_ historical art; so
that, strictly speaking, according to the analogy above used, we meet
with the pure blue, and with the crimson ruling the blue and changing
it into kingly purple, but not with the pure crimson: for all
imagination must deal with the knowledge it has before accumulated; it
never produces anything but by combination or contemplation. Creation,
in the full sense, is impossible to it. And the mode in which the
historical faculties are included by it is often quite simple, and
easily seen. Thus, in Hunt's great poetical picture of the Light of the
World, the whole thought and arrangement of the picture being
imaginative, the several details of it are wrought out with simple
portraiture; the ivy, the jewels, the creeping plants, and the
moonlight being calmly studied or remembered from the things
themselves. But of all these special ways in which the invention works
with plain facts, we shall have to treat farther afterwards.

§ 24. And now, finally, since this poetical power includes the
historical, if we glance back to the other qualities required in great
art, and put all together, we find that the sum of them is simply the
sum of all the powers of man. For as (1) the choice of the high subject
involves all conditions of right moral choice, and as (2) the love of
beauty involves all conditions of right admiration, and as (3) the
grasp of truth involves all strength of sense, evenness of judgment,
and honesty of purpose, and as (4) the poetical power involves all
swiftness of invention, and accuracy of historical memory, the sum of
all these powers is the sum of the human soul. Hence we see why the
word "Great" is used of this art. It is literally great. It compasses
and calls forth the entire human spirit, whereas any other kind of art,
being more or less small or narrow, compasses and calls forth only
_part_ of the human spirit. Hence the idea of its magnitude is a
literal and just one, the art being simply less or greater in
proportion to the number of faculties it exercises and addresses.[9]
And this is the ultimate meaning of the definition I gave of it long
ago, as containing the "greatest number of the greatest ideas."

§ 25. Such, then, being the characters required in order to
constitute high art, if the reader will think over them a little,
and over the various ways in which they may be falsely assumed, he
will easily perceive how spacious and dangerous a field of
discussion they open to the ambitious critic, and of error to the
ambitious artist; he will see how difficult it must be, either to
distinguish what is truly great art from the mockeries of it, or to
rank the real artists in any thing like a progressive system of
greater and less. For it will have been observed that the various
qualities which form greatness are partly inconsistent with each
other (as some virtues are, docility and firmness for instance), and
partly independent of each other; and the fact is, that artists
differ not more by mere capacity, than by the component _elements_
of their capacity, each possessing in very different proportions the
several attributes of greatness; so that, classed by one kind of
merit, as, for instance, purity of expression, Angelico will stand
highest; classed by another, sincerity of manner, Veronese will
stand highest; classed by another, love of beauty, Leonardo will
stand highest; and so on; hence arise continual disputes and
misunderstandings among those who think that high art must always be
one and the same, and that great artists ought to unite all great
attributes in an equal degree.

§ 26. In one of the exquisitely finished tales of Marmontel, a
company of critics are received at dinner by the hero of the story,
an old gentleman, somewhat vain of his _acquired_ taste, and his
niece, by whose incorrigible _natural_ taste, he is seriously
disturbed and tormented. During the entertainment, "On parcourut
tous les genres de littérature, et pour donner plus d'essor a
l'érudition et à la critique, on mit sur le tapis cette question
toute neuve, sçavoir, lequel méritoit le préference de Corneille ou
de Racine. L'on disoit même là-dessus les plus belles choses du
monde, lorsque la petite nièce, qui n'avoit pas dit un mot, s'avisa
de demander naïvement lequel des deux fruits, de l'orange ou de la
pêche, avoit le gout les plus exquis et méritoit le plus d'éloges.
Son oncle rougit de sa simplicité, et les convives baissèrent tous
les yeux sans daigner répondre à cette bêtise. Ma nièce, dit Fintac,
a votre âge, il faut sçavoir écouter, et se taire."

I cannot close this chapter with shorter or better advice to the
reader, than merely, whenever he hears discussions about the
relative merits of great masters, to remember the young lady's
question. It is, indeed, true that there _is_ a relative merit, that
a peach is nobler than a hawthorn berry, and still more a hawthorn
berry than a bead of the nightshade; but in each rank of fruits, as
in each rank of masters, one is endowed with one virtue, and another
with another; their glory is their dissimilarity, and they who
propose to themselves in the training of an artist that he should
unite the coloring of Tintoret, the finish of Albert Durer, and the
tenderness of Correggio, are no wiser than a horticulturist would
be, who made it the object of his labor to produce a fruit which
should unite in itself the lusciousness of the grape, the crispness
of the nut, and the fragrance of the pine.

§ 27. And from these considerations one most important practical
corollary is to be deduced, with the good help of Mademoiselle's
Agathe's simile, namely, that the greatness or smallness of a man is,
in the most conclusive sense, determined for him at his birth, as
strictly as it is determined for a fruit whether it is to be a currant
or an apricot. Education, favorable circumstances, resolution, and
industry can do much; in a certain sense they do _everything_; that is
to say, they determine whether the poor apricot shall fall in the form
of a green bead, blighted by an east wind, shall be trodden under foot,
or whether it shall expand into tender pride, and sweet brightness of
golden velvet. But apricot out of currant,--great man out of
small,--did never yet art or effort make; and, in a general way, men
have their excellence nearly fixed for them when they are born; a
little cramped and frost-bitten on one side, a little sun-burnt and
fortune-spotted on the other, they reach, between good and evil
chances, such size and taste as generally belong to the men of their
calibre, and the small in their serviceable bunches, the great in their
golden isolation, have, these no cause for regret, nor those for

§ 28. Therefore it is, that every system of teaching is false which
holds forth "great art" as in any wise to be taught to students, or
even to be aimed at by them. Great art is precisely that which never
was, nor will be taught, it is preeminently and finally the
expression of the spirits of great men; so that the only wholesome
teaching is that which simply endeavors to fix those characters of
nobleness in the pupil's mind, of which it seems easily susceptible;
and without holding out to him, as a possible or even probable
result, that he should ever paint like Titian, or carve like Michael
Angelo, enforces upon him the manifest possibility, and assured
duty, of endeavoring to draw in a manner at least honest and
intelligible; and cultivates in him those general charities of
heart, sincerities of thought, and graces of habit which are likely
to lead him, throughout life, to prefer openness to affectation,
realities to shadows, and beauty to corruption.

  [5] Del "nò," per lì danar, vi "sì" far ita.

  [6] As here, for the first time, I am obliged to use the terms
      Truth and Beauty in a kind of opposition, I must therefore
      stop for a moment to state clearly the relation of these two
      qualities of art; and to protest against the vulgar and
      foolish habit of confusing truth and beauty with each other.
      People with shallow powers of thought, desiring to flatter
      themselves with the sensation of having attained profundity,
      are continually doing the most serious mischief by introducing
      confusion into plain matters, and then valuing themselves on
      being confounded. Nothing is more common than to hear people
      who desire to be thought philosophical, declare that "beauty
      is truth," and "truth is beauty." I would most earnestly beg
      every sensible person who hears such an assertion made, to nip
      the germinating philosopher in his ambiguous bud; and beg him,
      if he really believes his own assertion, never thenceforward
      to use two words for the same thing. The fact is, truth and
      beauty are entirely distinct, though often related, things.
      One is a property of statements, the other of objects. The
      statement that "two and two make four" is true, but it is
      neither beautiful nor ugly, for it is invisible; a rose is
      lovely, but it is neither true nor false, for it is silent.
      That which shows nothing cannot be fair, and that which
      asserts nothing cannot be false. Even the ordinary use of the
      words false and true as applied to artificial and real things,
      is inaccurate. An artificial rose is not a "false" rose, it is
      not a rose at all. The falseness is in the person who states,
      or induces the belief, that it is a rose.

      Now, therefore, in things concerning art, the words true and
      false are only to be rightly used while the picture is
      considered as a statement of facts. The painter asserts that
      this which he has painted is the form of a dog, a man, or a
      tree. If it be _not_ the form of a dog, a man, or a tree, the
      painter's statement is false; and therefore we justly speak of
      a false line, or false color; not that any line or color can
      in themselves be false, but they become so when they convey a
      statement that they resemble something which they do _not_
      resemble. But the beauty of the lines or colors is wholly
      independent of any such statement. They may be beautiful
      lines, though quite inaccurate, and ugly lines though quite
      faithful. A picture may be frightfully ugly, which represents
      with fidelity some base circumstance of daily life; and a
      painted window may be exquisitely beautiful, which represents
      men with eagles' faces, and dogs with blue heads and crimson
      tails (though, by the way, this is not in the strict sense
      _false_ art, as we shall see hereafter, inasmuch as it means
      no assertion that men ever _had_ eagles' faces). If this were
      not so, it would be impossible to sacrifice truth to beauty;
      for to attain the one would always be to attain the other.
      But, unfortunately, this sacrifice is exceedingly possible,
      and it is chiefly this which characterizes the false schools
      of high art, so far as high art consists in the pursuit of
      beauty. For although truth and beauty are independent of each
      other, it does not follow that we are at liberty to pursue
      whichever we please. They are indeed separable, but it is
      wrong to separate them; they are to be sought together in the
      order of their worthiness; that is to say, truth first, and
      beauty afterwards. High art differs from low art in possessing
      an excess of beauty in addition to its truth, not in
      possessing an excess of beauty inconsistent with truth.

  [7] I name them in order of _in_creasing not decreasing

  [8] Compare my Edinburgh Lectures, lecture iv. p. 218, et seq.
      (2nd edition)

  [9] Compare Stones of Venice, vol. iii. chap. iv. § 7, and § 21.



§ 1. Having now gained some general notion of the meaning of "great
art," we may, without risk of confusing ourselves, take up the
questions suggested incidentally in the preceding chapter, and pursue
them at leisure. Of these, two principal ones are closely connected
with each other, to wit, that put in the 12th paragraph--How may beauty
be sought in defiance of truth? and that in the 23rd paragraph--How
does the imagination show itself in dealing with truth? These two,
therefore, which are, besides, the most important of all, and, if well
answered, will answer many others inclusively, we shall find it most
convenient to deal with at once.

§ 2. The pursuit, by the imagination, of beautiful and strange
thoughts or subjects, to the exclusion of painful or common ones, is
called among us, in these modern days, the pursuit of "_the ideal_;"
nor does any subject deserve more attentive examination than the
manner in which this pursuit is entered upon by the modern mind. The
reader must pardon me for making in the outset one or two statements
which may appear to him somewhat wide of the matter, but which, (if
he admits their truth,) he will, I think, presently perceive to
reach to the root of it. Namely,

That men's proper business in this world falls mainly into three

First, to know themselves, and the existing state of the things they
have to do with.

Secondly, to be happy in themselves, and in the existing state of

Thirdly, to mend themselves, and the existing state of things, as
far as either are marred or mendable.

These, I say, are the three plain divisions of proper human
business on this earth. For these three, the following are usually
substituted and adopted by human creatures:

First, to be totally ignorant of themselves, and the existing state
of things.

Secondly, to be miserable in themselves, and in the existing state
of things.

Thirdly, to let themselves, and the existing state of things, alone
(at least in the way of correction).

§ 3. The dispositions which induce us to manage, thus wisely, the
affairs of this life seem to be:

First, a fear of disagreeable facts, and conscious shrinking from
clearness of light, which keep us from examining ourselves, and
increase gradually into a species of instinctive terror at all truth,
and love of glosses, veils, and decorative lies of every sort.

Secondly, a general readiness to take delight in anything past, future,
far off, or somewhere else, rather than in things now, near, and here;
leading us gradually to place our pleasure principally in the exercise
of the imagination, and to build all our satisfaction on things as they
are _not_. Which power being one not accorded to the lower animals, and
having indeed, when disciplined, a very noble use, we pride ourselves
upon it, whether disciplined or not, and pass our lives complacently,
in substantial discontent, and visionary satisfaction.

§ 4. Now _nearly_ all artistical and poetical seeking after the
ideal is only one branch of this base habit--the abuse of the
imagination, in allowing it to find its whole delight in the
impossible and untrue; while the faithful pursuit of the ideal is an
honest use of the imagination, giving full power and presence to the
possible and true.

It is the difference between these two uses of it which we have to

§ 5. And, first, consider what are the legitimate uses of the
imagination, that is to say, of the power of perceiving, or
conceiving with the mind, things which cannot be perceived by the

Its first and noblest use is, to enable us to bring sensibly to our
sight the things which are recorded as belonging to our future
state, or as invisibly surrounding us in this. It is given us, that
we may imagine the cloud of witnesses in heaven and earth, and see,
as if they were now present, the souls of the righteous waiting for
us; that we may conceive the great army of the inhabitants of
heaven, and discover among them those whom we most desire to be with
for ever; that we may be able to vision forth the ministry of angels
beside us, and see the chariots of fire on the mountains that gird
us round; but above all, to call up the scenes and facts in which we
are commanded to believe, and be present, as if in the body, at
every recorded event of the history of the Redeemer. Its second and
ordinary use is to empower us to traverse the scenes of all other
history, and force the facts to become again visible, so as to make
upon us the same impression which they would have made if we had
witnessed them; and in the minor necessities of life, to enable us,
out of any present good, to gather the utmost measure of enjoyment
by investing it with happy associations, and, in any present evil,
to lighten it, by summoning back the images of other hours; and,
also, to give to all mental truths some visible type in allegory,
simile, or personification, which shall more deeply enforce them;
and, finally, when the mind is utterly outwearied, to refresh it
with such innocent play as shall be most in harmony with the
suggestive voices of natural things, permitting it to possess living
companionship instead of silent beauty, and create for itself
fairies in the grass and naiads in the wave.

§ 6. These being the uses of imagination, its abuses are either in
creating, for mere pleasure, false images, where it is its _duty_ to
create true ones; or in turning what was intended for the mere
refreshment of the heart into its daily food, and changing the innocent
pastimes of an hour into the guilty occupation of a life.

Let us examine the principal forms of this misuse, one by one.

§ 7. First, then, the imagination is chiefly warped and dishonored
by being allowed to create false images, where it is its duty to
create true ones. And this most dangerously in matters of religion.
For a long time, when art was in its infancy, it remained unexposed
to this danger, because it could not, with any power, realize or
create _any_ thing. It consisted merely in simple outlines and
pleasant colors; which were understood to be nothing more than
signs of the thing thought of, a sort of pictorial letter for it, no
more pretending to represent it than the written characters of its
name. Such art excited the imagination, while it pleased the eye.
But it _asserted_ nothing, for it could realize nothing. The reader
glanced at it as a glittering symbol, and went on to form truer
images for himself. This act of the mind may be still seen in daily
operation in children, as they look at brightly colored pictures in
their story-books. Such pictures neither deceive them nor satisfy
them; they only set their own inventive powers to work in the
directions required.

§ 8. But as soon as art obtained the power of realization, it
obtained also that of _assertion_. As fast as the painter advanced
in skill he gained also in credibility, and that which he perfectly
represented was perfectly believed, or could be disbelieved only by
an actual effort of the beholder to escape from the fascinating
deception. What had been faintly declared, might be painlessly
denied; but it was difficult to discredit things forcibly alleged;
and representations, which had been innocent in discrepancy, became
guilty in consistency.

§ 9. For instance, when in the thirteenth century, the nativity was
habitually represented by such a symbol as that on the next page,
fig. 1, there was not the smallest possibility that such a picture
could disturb, in the mind of the reader of the New Testament, the
simple meaning of the words "wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid
him in a manger." That this manger was typified by a trefoiled arch[10]
would no more prevent his distinct understanding of the narrative, than
the grotesque heads introduced above it would interfere with his firm
comprehension of the words "ox" or "ass;" while if there were anything
in the action of the principal figures suggestive of real feeling, that
suggestion he would accept, together with the general pleasantness of
the lines and colors in the decorative letter; but without having his
faith in the unrepresented and actual scene obscured for a moment. But
it was far otherwise, when Francia or Perugino, with exquisite power of
representing the human form, and high knowledge of the mysteries of
art, devoted all their skill to the delineation of an impossible scene;
and painted, for their subjects of the Nativity, a beautiful and
queenly lady, her dress embroidered with gold, and with a crown of
jewels upon her hair, kneeling, on a floor of inlaid and precious
marble, before a crowned child, laid under a portico of Lombardic[11]
architecture; with a sweet, verdurous, and vivid landscape in the
distance, full of winding rivers, village spires, and baronial
towers.[12] It is quite true that the frank absurdity of the thought
prevented its being received as a deliberate contradiction of the
truths of Scripture; but it is no less certain, that the continual
presentment to the mind of this beautiful and fully realized imagery
more and more chilled its power of apprehending the real truth; and
that when pictures of this description met the eye in every corner of
every chapel, it was physically impossible to dwell distinctly upon
facts the direct reverse of those represented. The word "Virgin" or
"Madonna," instead of calling up the vision of a simple Jewish girl,
bearing the calamities of poverty, and the dishonors of inferior
station, summoned instantly the idea of a graceful princess, crowned
with gems, and surrounded by obsequious ministry of kings and saints.
The fallacy which was presented to the imagination was indeed
discredited, but also the fact which was _not_ presented to the
imagination was forgotten; all true grounds of faith were gradually
undermined, and the beholder was either enticed into mere luxury of
fanciful enjoyment, believing nothing; or left, in his confusion of
mind, the prey of vain tales and traditions; while in his best feelings
he was unconsciously subject to the power of the fallacious picture,
and with no sense of the real cause of his error, bowed himself, in
prayer or adoration, to the lovely lady on her golden throne, when he
would never have dreamed of doing so to the Jewish girl in her outcast
poverty, or, in her simple household, to the carpenter's wife.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.]

§ 10. But a shadow of increasing darkness fell upon the human mind as
art proceeded to still more perfect realization. These fantasies of
the earlier painters, though they darkened faith, never hardened
_feeling_; on the contrary, the frankness of their unlikelihood
proceeded mainly from the endeavor on the part of the painter to
express, not the actual fact, but the enthusiastic state of his own
feelings about the fact; he covers the Virgin's dress with gold, not
with any idea of representing the Virgin as she ever was, or ever will
be seen, but with a burning desire to show what his love and reverence
would think fittest for her. He erects for the stable a Lombardic
portico, not because he supposes the Lombardi to have built stables in
Palestine in the days of Tiberius, but to show that the manger in
which Christ was laid is, in his eyes, nobler than the greatest
architecture in the world. He fills his landscape with church spires
and silver streams, not because he supposes that either were in sight
of Bethlehem, but to remind the beholder of the peaceful course and
succeeding power of Christianity. And, regarded with due sympathy and
clear understanding of these thoughts of the artist, such pictures
remain most impressive and touching, even to this day. I shall refer
to them in future, in general terms, as the pictures of the "Angelican
Ideal"--Angelico being the central master of the school.

§ 11. It was far otherwise in the next step of the Realistic progress.
The greater his powers became, the more the mind of the painter was
absorbed in their attainment, and complacent in their display. The
early arts of laying on bright colors smoothly, of burnishing golden
ornaments, or tracing, leaf by leaf, the outlines of flowers, were not
so difficult as that they should materially occupy the thoughts of the
artist, or furnish foundation for his conceit; he learned these
rudiments of his work without pain, and employed them without pride,
his spirit being left free to express, so far as it was capable of
them, the reaches of higher thought. But when accurate shade, and
subtle color, and perfect anatomy, and complicated perspective, became
necessary to the work, the artist's whole energy was employed in
learning the laws of these, and his whole pleasure consisted in
exhibiting them. His life was devoted, not to the objects of art, but
to the cunning of it; and the sciences of composition and light and
shade were pursued as if there were abstract good in them;--as if,
like astronomy or mathematics, they were ends in themselves,
irrespective of anything to be effected by them. And without
perception, on the part of any one, of the abyss to which all were
hastening, a fatal change of aim took place throughout the whole world
of art. In early times _art was employed for the display of religious
facts_; now, _religious facts were employed for the display of art_.
The transition, though imperceptible, was consummate; it involved the
entire destiny of painting. It was passing from the paths of life to
the paths of death.

§ 12. And this change was all the more fatal, because at first veiled
by an appearance of greater dignity and sincerity than were possessed
by the older art. One of the earliest results of the new knowledge was
the putting away the greater part of the _unlikelihoods_ and fineries
of the ancient pictures, and an apparently closer following of nature
and probability. All the fantasy which I have just been blaming as
disturbant of the simplicity of faith, was first subdued,--then
despised and cast aside. The appearances of nature were more closely
followed in everything; and the crowned Queen-Virgin of Perugino sank
into a simple Italian mother in Raphael's Madonna of the Chair.

§ 13. Was not this, then, a healthy change? No. It _would_ have been
healthy if it had been effected with a pure motive, and the new
truths would have been precious if they had been sought for truth's
sake. But they were not sought for truth's sake, but for pride's;
and truth which is sought for display may be just as harmful as
truth which is spoken in malice. The glittering childishness of the
old art was rejected, not because it was false, but because it was
easy; and, still more, because the painter had no longer any
religious passion to express. He could think of the Madonna now very
calmly, with no desire to pour out the treasures of earth at her
feet, or crown her brows with the golden shafts of heaven. He could
think of her as an available subject for the display of transparent
shadows, skilful tints, and scientific foreshortenings,--as a fair
woman, forming, if well painted, a pleasant piece of furniture for
the corner of a boudoir, and best imagined by combination of the
beauties of the prettiest contadinas. He could think of her, in her
last maternal agony, with academical discrimination; sketch in first
her skeleton, invest her, in serene science, with the muscles of
misery and the fibres of sorrow; then cast the grace of antique
drapery over the nakedness of her desolation, and fulfil, with
studious lustre of tears and delicately painted pallor, the perfect
type of the "Mater Dolorosa."

§ 14. It was thus that Raphael thought of the Madonna.[13]

Now observe, when the subject was thus scientifically completed, it
became necessary, as we have just said, to the full display of all the
power of the artist, that it should in many respects be more faithfully
imagined than it had been hitherto, "Keeping," "Expression,"
"Historical Unity," and such other requirements, were enforced on the
painter, in the same tone, and with the same purpose, as the purity of
his oil and the accuracy of his perspective. He was told that the
figure of Christ should be "dignified," those of the Apostles
"expressive," that of the Virgin "modest," and those of children
"innocent." All this was perfectly true; and in obedience to such
directions, the painter proceeded to manufacture certain arrangements
of apostolic sublimity, virginal mildness, and infantine innocence,
which, being free from the quaint imperfection and contradictoriness of
the early art, were looked upon by the European public as true things,
and trustworthy representations of the events of religious history. The
pictures of Francia and Bellini had been received as pleasant visions.
But the cartoons of Raphael were received as representations of
historical fact.

§ 15. Now, neither they, nor any other work of the period, were
representations either of historical or possible fact. They were, in
the strictest sense of the word, "compositions"--cold arrangements
of propriety and agreeableness, according to academical formulas;
the painter never in any case making the slightest effort to
conceive the thing as it must have happened, but only to gather
together graceful lines and beautiful faces, in such compliance with
commonplace ideas of the subject as might obtain for the whole an
"epic unity," or some such other form of scholastic perfectness.

§ 16. Take a very important instance.

I suppose there is no event in the whole life of Christ to which, in
hours of doubt or fear, men turn with more anxious thirst to knew the
close facts of it, or with more earnest and passionate dwelling upon
every syllable of its recorded narrative, than Christ's showing Himself
to his disciples at the lake of Galilee. There is something
preeminently open, natural, full fronting our disbelief in this
manifestation. The others, recorded after the resurrection, were
sudden, phantom-like, occurring to men in profound sorrow and wearied
agitation of heart; not, it might seem, safe judges of what they saw.
But the agitation was now over. They had gone back to their daily work,
thinking still their business lay net-wards, unmeshed from the literal
rope and drag. "Simon Peter saith unto them, 'I go a fishing,' They say
unto him, 'We also go with thee,'" True words enough, and having far
echo beyond those Galilean hills. That night they caught nothing; but
when the morning came, in the clear light of it, behold a figure stood
on the shore. They were not thinking of anything but their fruitless
hauls. They had no guess who it was. It asked them simply if they had
caught anything. They said no. And it tells them to cast yet again. And
John shades his eyes from the morning sun with his hand, to look who it
is; and though the glinting of the sea, too, dazzles him, he makes out
who it is, at last; and poor Simon, not to be outrun this time,
tightens, his fisher's coat about him, and dashes in, over the nets.
One would have liked to see him swim those hundred yards, and stagger
to his knees on the beach.

Well, the others get to the beach, too, in time, in such slow way as
men in general do get, in this world, to its true shore, much
impeded by that wonderful "dragging the net with fishes;" but they
get there--seven of them in all;--first the Denier, and then the
slowest believer, and then the quickest believer, and then the two
throne-seekers, and two more, we know not who.

They sit down on the shore face to face with Him, and eat their
broiled fish as He bids. And then, to Peter, all dripping still,
shivering, and amazed, staring at Christ in the sun, on the other
side of the coal fire,--thinking a little, perhaps, of what happened
by another coal fire, when it was colder, and having had no word
once changed with him by his Master since that look of His,--to him,
so amazed, comes the question, "Simon, lovest thou me?" Try to feel
that a little, and think of it till it is true to you; and then,
take up that infinite monstrosity and hypocrisy--Raphael's cartoon
of the Charge to Peter. Note, first, the bold fallacy--the putting
_all_ the Apostles there, a mere lie to serve the Papal heresy of
the Petric supremacy, by putting them all in the background while
Peter receives the charge, and making them all witnesses to it. Note
the handsomely curled hair and neatly tied sandals of the men who
had been out all night in the sea-mists and on the slimy decks. Note
their convenient dresses for going a-fishing, with trains that lie a
yard along the ground, and goodly fringes,--all made to match, an
apostolic fishing costume.[14] Note how Peter especially (whose
chief glory was in his wet coat _girt_ about him and naked limbs)
is enveloped in folds and fringes, so as to kneel and hold his keys
with grace. No fire of coals at all, nor lonely mountain shore, but
a pleasant Italian landscape, full of villas and churches, and a
flock of sheep to be pointed at; and the whole group of Apostles,
not round Christ, as they would have been naturally, but straggling
away in a line, that they may all be shown.

The simple truth is, that the moment we look at the picture we feel
our belief of the whole thing taken away. There is, visibly, no
possibility of that group ever having existed, in any place, or on any
occasion. It is all a mere mythic absurdity, and faded concoction of
fringes, muscular arms, and curly heads of Greek philosophers.

§ 17. Now, the evil consequences of the acceptance of this kind of
religious idealism for true, were instant and manifold. So far as it
was received and trusted in by thoughtful persons, it only served to
chill all the conceptions of sacred history which they might otherwise
have obtained. Whatever they could have fancied for themselves about
the wild, strange, infinitely stern, infinitely tender, infinitely
varied veracities of the life of Christ, was blotted out by the vapid
fineries of Raphael; the rough Galilean pilot, the orderly custom
receiver, and all the questioning wonder and fire of uneducated
apostleship, were obscured under an antique mask of philosophical
faces and long robes. The feeble, subtle, suffering, ceaseless energy
and humiliation of St. Paul were confused with an idea of a meditative
Hercules leaning on a sweeping sword;[15] and the mighty presences of
Moses and Elias were softened by introductions of delicate grace,
adopted from dancing nymphs and rising Auroras,[16]

Now, no vigorously minded religious person could possibly receive
pleasure or help from such art as this; and the necessary result was
the instant rejection of it by the healthy religion of the world.
Raphael ministered, with applause, to the impious luxury of the
Vatican, but was trampled under foot at once by every believing and
advancing Christian of his own and subsequent times; and
thenceforward pure Christianity and "high art" took separate roads,
and fared on, as best they might, independently of each other.

§ 18. But although Calvin, and Knox, and Luther, and their flocks,
with all the hardest-headed and truest-hearted faithful left in
Christendom, thus spurned away the spurious art, and all art with it,
(not without harm to themselves, such as a man must needs sustain in
cutting off a decayed limb[17]) certain conditions of weaker
Christianity suffered the false system to retain influence over them;
and to this day, the clear and tasteless poison of the art of Raphael
infects with sleep of infidelity the hearts of millions of Christians.
It is the first cause of all that pre-eminent _dulness_ which
characterizes what Protestants call sacred art; a dulness not merely
baneful in making religion distasteful to the young, but in sickening,
as we have seen, all vital belief of religion in the old. A dim sense
of impossibility attaches itself always to the graceful emptiness of
the representation; we feel instinctively that the painted Christ and
painted apostle are not beings that ever did or could exist; and this
fatal sense of fair fabulousness, and well-composed impossibility,
steals gradually from the picture into the history, until we find
ourselves reading St. Mark or St. Luke with the same admiring, but
uninterested, incredulity, with which we contemplate Raphael.

§ 19. On a certain class of minds, however, these Raphaelesque and
other sacred paintings of high order, have had, of late years,
another kind of influence, much resembling that which they had at
first on the most pious Romanists. They are used to excite certain
conditions of religious dream or reverie; being again, as in
earliest times, regarded not as representations of fact, but as
expressions of sentiment respecting the fact. In this way the best
of them have unquestionably much purifying and enchanting power; and
they are helpful opponents to sinful passion and weakness of every
kind. A fit of unjust anger, petty malice, unreasonable vexation, or
dark passion, cannot certainly, in a mind of ordinary sensibility,
hold its own in the presence of a good engraving from any work of
Angelico, Memling, or Perugino. But I nevertheless believe, that he
who trusts much to such helps will find them fail him at his need;
and that the dependence, in any great degree, on the presence or
power of a picture, indicates a wonderfully feeble sense of the
presence and power of God. I do not think that any man, who is
thoroughly certain that Christ is in the room, will care what sort
of pictures of Christ he has on its walls; and, in the plurality of
cases, the delight taken in art of this kind is, in reality, nothing
more than a form of graceful indulgence of those sensibilities which
the habits of a disciplined life restrain in other directions. Such
art is, in a word, the opera and drama of the monk. Sometimes it is
worse than this, and the love of it is the mask under which a
general thirst for morbid excitement will pass itself for religion.
The young lady who rises in the middle of the day, jaded by her last
night's ball, and utterly incapable of any simple or wholesome
religious exercise, can still gaze into the dark eyes of the Madonna
di San Sisto, or dream over the whiteness of an ivory crucifix, and
returns to the course of her daily life in full persuasion that her
morning's feverishness has atoned for her evening's folly. And all
the while, the art which possesses these very doubtful advantages is
acting for undoubtful detriment, in the various ways above examined,
on the inmost fastnesses of faith; it is throwing subtle endearments
round foolish traditions, confusing sweet fancies with sound
doctrines, obscuring real events with unlikely semblances, and
enforcing false assertions with pleasant circumstantiality, until,
to the usual, and assuredly sufficient, difficulties standing in the
way of belief, its votaries have added a habit of sentimentally
changing what they know to be true, and of dearly loving what they
confess to be false.

§ 20. Has there, then (the reader asks emphatically), been _no_ true
religious ideal? Has religious art never been of any service to
mankind? I fear, on the whole, not. Of true religious ideal,
representing events historically recorded, with solemn effort at a
sincere and unartificial conception, there exist, as yet, hardly any
examples. Nearly all good religious pictures fall into one or other
branch of the false ideal already examined, either into the Angelican
(passionate ideal) or the Raphaelesque (philosophical ideal). But there
is one true form of religious art, nevertheless, in the pictures of the
passionate ideal which represent imaginary beings of another world.
Since it is evidently right that we should try to imagine the glories
of the next world, and as this imagination must be, in each separate
mind, more or less different, and unconfined by any laws of material
fact, the passionate ideal has not only full scope here, but it becomes
our duty to urge its powers to its utmost, so that every condition of
beautiful form and color may be employed to invest these scenes with
greater delightfulness (the whole being, of course, received as an
assertion of possibility, not of absolute fact). All the paradises
imagined by the religious painters--the choirs of glorified saints,
angels, and spiritual powers, when painted with full belief in this
possibility of their existence, are true ideals; and so far from our
having dwelt on these too much, I believe, rather, we have not trusted
them enough, nor accepted them enough, as possible statements of most
precious truth. Nothing but unmixed good can accrue to any mind from
the contemplation of Orcagna's Last Judgment or his triumph of death,
of Angelico's Last Judgment and Paradise, or any of the scenes laid in
heaven by the other faithful religious masters; and the more they are
considered, not as works of art, but as real visions of real things,
more or less imperfectly set down, the more good will be got by
dwelling upon them. The same is true of all representations of Christ
as a living presence among us now, as in Hunt's Light of the World.

§ 21. For the rest, there is a reality of conception in some of the
works of Benozzo Gozzoli, Ghirlandajo, and Giotto, which approaches
to a true ideal, even of recorded facts. But the examination of the
various degrees in which sacred art has reached its proper power is
not to our present purpose; still less, to investigate the
infinitely difficult question of its past operation on the Christian
mind. I hope to prosecute my inquiry into this subject in another
work; it being enough here to mark the forms of ideal error,
without historically tracing their extent, and to state generally
that my impression is, up to the present moment, that the best
religious art has been _hitherto_ rather a fruit, and attendant
sign, of sincere Christianity than a promoter of or help to it.
More, I think, has always been done for God by few words than many
pictures, and more by few acts than many words.

§ 22. I must not, however, quit the subject without insisting on the
chief practical consequence of what we have observed, namely, that
sacred art, so far from being exhausted, has yet to attain the
development of its highest branches; and the task, or privilege, yet
remains for mankind, to produce an art which shall be at once entirely
skilful and entirely _sincere_. All the histories of the Bible are, in
my judgment, yet waiting to be painted. Moses has never been painted;
Elijah never; David never (except as a mere ruddy stripling); Deborah
never; Gideon never; Isaiah never. What single example does the reader
remember of painting which suggested so much as the faintest shadow of
these people, or of their deeds? Strong men in armor, or aged men with
flowing beards, he _may_ remember, who, when he looked at his Louvre
or Uffizii catalogue, he found were intended to stand for David or for
Moses. But does he suppose that, if these pictures had suggested to
him the feeblest image of the presence of such men, he would have
passed on, as he assuredly did, to the next picture,--representing,
doubtless, Diana and Actaeon, or Cupid and the Graces, or a gambling
quarrel in a pothouse,--with no sense of pain, or surprise? Let him
meditate over the matter, and he will find ultimately that what I say
is true, and that religious art, at once complete and sincere, never
yet has existed.

§ 23. It will exist: nay, I believe the era of its birth has come,
and that those bright Turnerian imageries, which the European public
declared to be "dotage," and those calm Pre-Raphaelite studies
which, in like manner, it pronounced "puerility," form the first
foundation that has been ever laid for true sacred art. Of this we
shall presently reason farther. But, be it as it may, if we would
cherish the hope that sacred art may, indeed, arise for _us_, two
separate cautions are to be addressed to the two opposed classes of
religionists whose influence will chiefly retard that hope's
accomplishment. The group calling themselves Evangelical ought no
longer to render their religion an offence to men of the world by
associating it only with the most vulgar forms of art. It is not
necessary that they should admit either music or painting into
religious service; but, if they admit either the one or the other,
let it not be bad music nor bad painting: it is certainly in nowise
more for Christ's honor that His praise should be sung discordantly,
or His miracles painted discreditably, than that His word should be
preached ungrammatically. Some Evangelicals, however, seem to take a
morbid pride in the triple degradation.[18]

§ 24. The opposite class of men, whose natural instincts lead them to
mingle the refinements of art with all the offices and practices of
religion, are to be warned, on the contrary, how they mistake their
enjoyments for their duties, or confound poetry with faith. I admit
that it is impossible for one man to judge another in this matter, and
that it can never be said with certainty how far what seems frivolity
may be force, and what seems the indulgence of the heart may be,
indeed, its dedication. I am ready to believe that Metastasio, expiring
in a canzonet, may have died better than if his prayer had been in
unmeasured syllables.[19] But, for the most part, it is assuredly much
to be feared lest we mistake a surrender to the charms of art for one
to the service of God; and, in the art which we permit, lest we
substitute sentiment for sense, grace for utility. And for us all there
is in this matter even a deeper danger than that of indulgence. There
is the danger of Artistical Pharisaism. Of all the forms of pride and
vanity, as there are none more subtle, so I believe there are none more
sinful, than those which are manifested by the Pharisees of art. To be
proud of birth, of place, of wit, of bodily beauty, is comparatively
innocent, just because such pride is more natural, and more easily
detected. But to be proud of our sanctities; to pour contempt upon our
fellows, because, forsooth, we like to look at Madonnas in bowers of
roses, better than at plain pictures of plain things; and to make this
religious art of ours the expression of our own perpetual
self-complacency,--congratulating ourselves, day by day, on our
purities, proprieties, elevations, and inspirations, as above the reach
of common mortals,--this I believe to be one of the wickedest and
foolishest forms of human egotism; and, truly, I had rather, with
great, thoughtless, humble Paul Veronese, make the Supper at Emmaus a
background for two children playing with a dog (as, God knows, men do
usually put it in the background to everything, if not out of sight
altogether), than join that school of modern Germanism which wears its
pieties for decoration as women wear their diamonds, and flaunts the
dry fleeces of its phylacteries between its dust and the dew of heaven.

  [10] The curious inequality of this little trefoil is not a
       mistake; it is faithfully copied by the draughtsman from the
       MS. Perhaps the actual date of the illumination may be a year
       or two past the thirteenth century, i.e., 1300--1310: but it
       is quite characteristic of the thirteenth century treatment in
       the figures.

  [11] Lombardic, i.e. in the style of Pietro and Tullio Lombardo,
       in the fifteenth century (not _Lombard_).

  [12] All this, it will be observed, is that seeking for beauty at
       the cost of truth which we have generally noted in the last

  [13] This is one form of the sacrifice of expression to technical
       merit, generally noted at the end of the 10th paragraph of the
       last chapter.

  [14] I suppose Raphael intended a reference to Numbers xv. 38; but
       if he did, the _blue_ riband, or "vitta," as it is in the
       Vulgate, should have been on the borders too.

  [15] In the St. Cecilia of Bologna.

  [16] In the Transfiguration. Do but try to believe that Moses and
       Elias are really there talking with Christ. Moses in the
       loveliest heart and midst of the land which once it had been
       denied him to behold,--Elijah treading the earth again, from
       which he had been swept to heaven in fire; both now with a
       mightier message than ever they had given in life,--mightier,
       in closing their own mission,--mightier, in speaking to
       Christ "of His decease, which He should accomplish at
       Jerusalem." They, men of like passions once with us,
       appointed to speak to the Redeemer of His death.

       And, then, look at Raphael's kicking gracefulnesses.

  [17] Luther had no dislike of religious art on principle. Even the
       stove in his chamber was wrought with sacred subjects. See
       Mrs. Stowe's Sunny Memories.

  [18] I do not know anything more humiliating to a man of common
       sense, than to open what is called an "illustrated Bible" of
       modern days. See, for instance, the plates in Brown's Bible
       (octavo: Edinburgh, 1840), a standard evangelical edition.
       Our habit of reducing the psalms to doggerel before we will
       condescend to sing them, is a parallel abuse. It is
       marvellous to think that human creatures with tongues and
       souls should refuse to chant the verse: "Before Ephraim,
       Benjamin, and Manasseh, stir up thy strength, and come and
       help us;" preferring this:--

           "Behold, how Benjamin expects,
             With Ephraim and Manasseh joined,
           In their deliverance, the effects
             Of thy resistless strength to find!"

  [19] "En 1780, âgé de quatre-vingt-deux ans, au moment de recevoir
       le viatique, il rassembla ses forces, et chanta, à son Créateur:

           'Eterno Genitor
           Io t' offro il proprio figlio
           Che in pegno del tuo amor
           Si vuole a me donar.

           A lui rivolgi il ciglio,
           Mira chi t' offro; e poi,
           Niega, Signor, se puoi,
           Niega di perdonar.'"--
                      --DE STENDHAL, _Via de Metastasio_.



§ 1. Such having been the effects of the pursuit of ideal beauty on
the religious mind of Europe, we might be tempted next to consider
in what way the same movement affected the art which concerned
itself with profane subject, and, through that art, the whole temper
of modern civilization.

I shall, however, merely glance at this question. It is a very
painful and a very wide one. Its discussion cannot come properly
within the limits, or even within the aim, of a work like this; it
ought to be made the subject of a separate essay, and that essay
should be written by some one who had passed less of his life than I
have among the mountains, and more of it among men. But one or two
points may be suggested for the reader to reflect upon at his

§ 2. I said just now that we might be tempted to consider how this
pursuit of the ideal _affected_ profane art. Strictly speaking, it
brought that art into existence. As long as men sought for truth
first, and beauty secondarily, they cared chiefly, of course, for
the _chief_ truth, and all art was instinctively religious. But as
soon as they sought for beauty first, and truth secondarily, they
were punished by losing sight of spiritual truth altogether, and the
profane (properly so called) schools of art were instantly

The perfect human beauty, which, to a large part of the community,
was by far the most interesting feature in the work of the rising
school, might indeed be in some degree consistent with the agony of
Madonnas, and the repentance of Magdalenes; but could not be
exhibited in fulness, when the subjects, however irreverently
treated, nevertheless demanded some decency in the artist, and some
gravity in the spectator. The newly acquired powers of rounding
limbs, and tinting lips, had too little scope in the sanctities
even of the softest womanhood; and the newly acquired conceptions of
the nobility of nakedness could in no wise be expressed beneath the
robes of the prelate or the sackcloth of the recluse. But the source
from which these ideas had been received afforded also full field
for their expression; the heathen mythology, which had furnished the
examples of these heights of art, might again become the subject of
the inspirations it had kindled;--with the additional advantage that
it could now be delighted in, without being believed; that its
errors might be indulged, unrepressed by its awe; and those of its
deities whose function was temptation might be worshipped, in scorn
of those whose hands were charged with chastisement.

So, at least, men dreamed in their foolishness,--to find, as the
ages wore on, that the returning Apollo bore not only his lyre, but
his arrows; and that at the instant of Cytherea's resurrection to
the sunshine, Persephone had reascended her throne in the deep.

§ 3. Little thinking this, they gave themselves up fearlessly to the
chase of the new delight, and exhausted themselves in the pursuit of
an ideal now doubly false. Formerly, though they attempted to reach
an unnatural beauty, it was yet in representing historical facts and
real persons; _now_ they sought for the same unnatural beauty in
representing tales which they knew to be fictitious, and personages
who they knew had never existed. Such a state of things had never
before been found in any nation. Every people till then had painted
the acts of their kings, the triumphs of their armies, the beauty of
their race, or the glory of their gods. They showed the things they
had seen or done; the beings they truly loved or faithfully adored.
But the ideal art of modern Europe was the shadow of a shadow; and
with mechanism substituted for perception, and bodily beauty for
spiritual life, it set itself to represent men it had never seen,
customs it had never practised, and gods in whom it had never

§ 4. Such art could of course have no help from the virtues, nor
claim on the energies of men. It necessarily rooted itself in their
vices and their idleness; and of their vices principally in two,
pride and sensuality. To the pride, was attached eminently the art
of architecture; to the sensuality, those of painting and sculpture.
Of the fall of architecture, as resultant from the formalist pride
of its patrons and designers, I have spoken elsewhere. The
sensualist ideal, as seen in painting and sculpture, remains to be
examined here. But one interesting circumstance is to be observed
with respect to the manner of the separation of these arts. Pride,
being wholly a vice, and in every phase inexcusable, wholly betrayed
and destroyed the art which was founded on it. But passion, having
some root and use in healthy nature, and only becoming guilty in
excess, did not altogether destroy the art founded upon it. The
architecture of Palladio is wholly virtueless and despicable. Not so
the Venus of Titian, nor the Antiope of Correggio.

§ 5. We find, then, at the close of the sixteenth century, the arts
of painting and sculpture wholly devoted to entertain the indolent
and satiate the luxurious. To effect these noble ends, they took a
thousand different forms; painting, however, of course being the
most complying, aiming sometimes at mere amusement by deception in
landscapes, or minute imitation of natural objects; sometimes giving
more piquant excitement in battle-pieces full of slaughter, or
revels deep in drunkenness; sometimes entering upon serious
subjects, for the sake of grotesque fiends and picturesque infernos,
or that it might introduce pretty children as cherubs, and handsome
women as Magdalenes and Maries of Egypt, or portraits of patrons in
the character of the more decorous saints: but more frequently, for
direct flatteries of this kind, recurring to Pagan mythology, and
painting frail ladies as goddesses or graces, and foolish kings in
radiant apotheosis; while, for the earthly delight of the persons
whom it honored as divine, it ransacked the records of luscious
fable, and brought back, in fullest depth of dye and flame of fancy,
the impurest dreams of the un-Christian ages.

§ 6. Meanwhile, the art of sculpture, less capable of ministering to
mere amusement, was more or less reserved for the affectations of
taste; and the study of the classical statues introduced various ideas
on the subjects of "purity," "chastity," and "dignity," such as it was
possible for people to entertain who were themselves impure, luxurious,
and ridiculous. It is a matter of extreme difficulty to explain the
exact character of this modern sculpturesque ideal; but its relation
to the true ideal may be best understood by considering it as in exact
parallelism with the relation of the word "taste" to the word "love."
Wherever the word "taste" is used with respect to matters of art, it
indicates either that the thing spoken of belongs to some inferior
class of objects, or that the person speaking has a false conception of
its nature. For, consider the exact sense in which a work of art is
said to be "in good or bad taste." It does not mean that it is true, or
false; that it is beautiful, or ugly; but that it does or does not
comply either with the laws of choice, which are enforced by certain
modes of life; or the habits of mind produced by a particular sort of
education. It does not mean merely fashionable, that is, complying with
a momentary caprice of the upper classes; but it means agreeing with
the habitual sense which the most refined education, common to those
upper classes at the period, gives to their whole mind. Now, therefore,
so far as that education does indeed tend to make the senses delicate,
and the perceptions accurate, and thus enables people to be pleased
with quiet instead of gaudy color, and with graceful instead of coarse
form; and, by long acquaintance with the best things, to discern
quickly what is fine from what is common;--so far, acquired taste is an
honorable faculty, and it is true praise of anything to say it is "in
good taste." But so far as this higher education has a tendency to
narrow the sympathies and harden the heart, diminishing the interest of
all beautiful things by familiarity, until even what is best can hardly
please, and what is brightest hardly entertain;--so far as it fosters
pride, and leads men to found the pleasure they take in anything, not
on the worthiness of the thing, but on the degree in which it indicates
some greatness of their own (as people build marble porticos, and inlay
marble floors, not so much because they like the colors of marble, or
find it pleasant to the foot, as because such porches and floors are
costly, and separated in all human eyes from plain entrances of stone
and timber);--so far as it leads people to prefer gracefulness of
dress, manner, and aspect, to value of substance and heart, liking a
well said thing better than a true thing, and a well trained manner
better than a sincere one, and a delicately formed face better than a
good-natured one, and in all other ways and things setting custom and
semblance above everlasting truth;--so far, finally, as it induces a
sense of inherent distinction between class and class, and causes
everything to be more or less despised which has no social rank, so
that the affection, pleasure, or grief of a clown are looked upon as of
no interest compared with the affection and grief of a well-bred
man;--just so far, in all these several ways, the feeling induced by
what is called a "liberal education" is utterly adverse to the
understanding of noble art; and the name which is given to the
feeling,--Taste, Goût, Gusto,--in all languages, indicates the baseness
of it, for it implies that art gives only a kind of pleasure analogous
to that derived from eating by the palate.

§ 7. Modern education, not in art only, but in all other things
referable to the same standard, has invariably given taste in this bad
sense; it has given fastidiousness of choice without judgment,
superciliousness of manner without dignity, refinement of habit without
purity, grace of expression without sincerity, and desire of loveliness
without love; and the modern "Ideal" of high art is a curious mingling
of the gracefulness and reserve of the drawingroom with a certain
measure of classical sensuality. Of this last element, and the singular
artifices by which vice succeeds in combining it with what appears to
be pure and severe, it would take us long to reason fully; I would
rather leave the reader to follow out for himself the consideration of
the influence, in this direction, of statues, bronzes, and paintings,
as at present employed by the upper circles of London, and (especially)
Paris; and this not so much in the works which are really fine, as in
the multiplied coarse copies of them; taking the widest range, from
Dannaeker's Ariadne down to the amorous shepherd and shepherdess in
china on the drawingroom time-piece, rigidly questioning, in each case,
how far the charm of the art does indeed depend on some appeal to the
inferior passions. Let it be considered, for instance, exactly how far
the value of a picture of a girl's head by Greuze would be lowered in
the market, if the dress, which now leaves the bosom bare, were raised
to the neck; and how far, in the commonest lithograph of some utterly
popular subject,--for instance, the teaching of Uncle Tom by Eva,--the
sentiment which is supposed to be excited by the exhibition of
Christianity in youth is complicated with that which depends upon Eva's
having a dainty foot and a well-made satin slipper;--and then, having
completely determined for himself how far the element exists, consider
farther, whether, when art is thus frequent (for frequent he will
assuredly find it to be) in its appeal to the lower passions, it is
likely to attain the highest order of merit, or be judged by the truest
standards of judgment. For, of all the causes which have combined, in
modern times, to lower the rank of art, I believe this to be one of the
most fatal; while, reciprocally, it may be questioned how far society
suffers, in its turn, from the influences possessed over it by the arts
it has degraded. It seems to me a subject of the very deepest interest
to determine what has been the effect upon the European nations of the
great change by which art became again capable of ministering
delicately to the lower passions, as it had in the worst days of Rome;
how far, indeed, in all ages, the fall of nations may be attributed to
art's arriving at this particular stage among them. I do not mean that,
in any of its stages, it is incapable of being employed for evil, but
that assuredly an Egyptian, Spartan, or Norman was unexposed to the
kind of temptation which is continually offered by the delicate
painting and sculpture of modern days; and, although the diseased
imagination might complete the imperfect image of beauty from the
colored image on the wall,[20] or the most revolting thoughts be
suggested by the mocking barbarism of the Gothic sculpture, their hard
outline and rude execution were free from all the subtle treachery
which now fills the flushed canvas and the rounded marble.

§ 8. I cannot, however, pursue this inquiry here. For our present
purpose it is enough to note that the feeling, in itself so debased,
branches upwards into that of which, while no one has cause to be
ashamed, no one, on the other hand, has cause to be proud, namely, the
admiration of physical beauty in the human form, as distinguished from
expression of character. Every one can easily appreciate the merit of
regular features and well-formed limbs, but it requires some attention,
sympathy, and sense, to detect the charm of passing expression, or
life-disciplined character. The beauty of the Apollo Belvidere, or
Venus de Medicis, is perfectly palpable to any shallow fine lady or
fine gentleman, though they would have perceived none in the face of an
old weather-beaten St. Peter, or a grey-haired "Grandmother Lois." The
knowledge that long study is necessary to produce these regular types
of the human form renders the facile admiration matter of eager
self-complacency; the shallow spectator, delighted that he can really,
and without hypocrisy, admire what required much thought to produce,
supposes himself endowed with the highest critical faculties, and
easily lets himself be carried into rhapsodies about the "ideal,"
which, when all is said, if they be accurately examined, will be found
literally to mean nothing more than that the figure has got handsome
calves to its legs, and a straight nose.

§ 9. That they do mean, in reality, nothing more than this may be
easily ascertained by watching the taste of the same persons in other
things. The fashionable lady who will write five or six pages in her
diary respecting the effect upon her mind of such and such an "ideal"
in marble, will have her drawing room table covered with Books of
Beauty, in which the engravings represent the human form in every
possible aspect of distortion and affectation; and the connoisseur who,
in the morning, pretends to the most exquisite taste in the antique,
will be seen, in the evening, in his opera-stall, applauding the least
graceful gestures of the least modest figurante.

§ 10. But even this vulgar pursuit of physical beauty (vulgar in the
profoundest sense, for there is no vulgarity like the vulgarity of
education) would be less contemptible if it really succeeded in its
object; but, like all pursuits carried to inordinate length, it
defeats itself. Physical beauty _is_ a noble thing when it is seen
in perfectness; but the manner in which the moderns pursue their
ideal prevents their ever really seeing what they are always
seeking; for, requiring that all forms should be regular and
faultless, they permit, or even compel, their painters and sculptors
to work chiefly by rule, altering their models to fit their
preconceived notions of what is right. When such artists look at a
face, they do not give it the attention necessary to discern what
beauty is already in its peculiar features; but only to see how
best it may be altered into something for which they have themselves
laid down the laws. Nature never unveils her beauty to such a gaze.
She keeps whatever she has done best, close sealed, until it is
regarded with reverence. To the painter who honors her, she will
open a revelation in the face of a street mendicant; but in the work
of the painter who alters her, she will make Portia become ignoble
and Perdita graceless.

§ 11. Nor is the effect less for evil on the mind of the general
observer. The lover of ideal beauty, with all his conceptions
narrowed by rule, never looks carefully enough upon the features
which do not come under his law (or any others), to discern the
inner beauty in them. The strange intricacies about the lines of the
lips, and marvellous shadows and watch-fires of the eye, and
wavering traceries of the eyelash, and infinite modulations of the
brow, wherein high humanity is embodied, are all invisible to him.
He finds himself driven back at last, with all his idealism, to the
lionne of the ball-room, whom youth and passion can as easily
distinguish as his utmost critical science; whereas, the observer
who has accustomed himself to take human faces as God made them,
will often find as much beauty on a village green as in the proudest
room of state, and as much in the free seats of a church aisle, as
in all the sacred paintings of the Vatican or the Pitti.

§ 12. Then, farther, the habit of disdaining ordinary truth, and
seeking to alter it so as to fit the fancy of the beholder,
gradually infects the mind in all its other operation; so that it
begins to propose to itself an ideal in history, an ideal in general
narration, an ideal in portraiture and description, and in every
thing else where truth may be painful or uninteresting; with the
necessary result of more or less weakness, wickedness, and
uselessness in all that is done or said, with the desire of
concealing this painful truth. And, finally, even when truth is not
intentionally concealed, the pursuer of idealism will pass his days
in false and useless trains of thought, pluming himself, all the
while, upon his superiority therein to the rest of mankind. A modern
German, without either invention or sense, seeing a rapid in a
river, will immediately devote the remainder of the day to the
composition of dialogues between amorous water nymphs and unhappy
mariners; while the man of true invention, power, and sense will,
instead, set himself to consider whether the rocks in the river
could have their points knocked off, or the boats upon it be made
with stronger bottoms.

§ 13. Of this final baseness of the false ideal, its miserable waste of
time, strength, and available intellect of man, by turning, as I have
said above, innocence of pastime into seriousness of occupation, it is,
of course, hardly possible to sketch out even so much as the leading
manifestations. The vain and haughty projects of youth for future life;
the giddy reveries of insatiable self exaltation; the discontented
dreams of what might have been or should be, instead of the thankful
understanding of what is; the casting about for sources of interest in
senseless fiction, instead of the real human histories of the people
round us; the prolongation from age to age of romantic historical
deceptions instead of sifted truth; the pleasures taken in fanciful
portraits of rural or romantic life in poetry and on the stage, without
the smallest effort to rescue the living rural population of the world
from its ignorance or misery; the excitement of the feelings by labored
imagination of spirits, fairies, monsters, and demons, issuing in total
blindness of heart and sight to the true presences of beneficent or
destructive spiritual powers around us; in fine, the constant
abandonment of all the straightforward paths of sense and duty, for
fear of losing some of the enticement of ghostly joys, or trampling
somewhat "sopra lor vanità, che par persona;" all these various forms
of false idealism have so entangled the modern mind, often called, I
suppose ironically, practical, that truly I believe there never yet was
idolatry of stock or staff so utterly unholy as this our idolatry of
shadows; nor can I think that, of those who burnt incense under oaks,
and poplars, and elms, because "the shadow thereof was good," it could
in any wise be more justly or sternly declared than of us--"The wind
hath bound them up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of
their sacrifices."[21]

  [20] Ezek. xxiii. 14.

  [21] Hosea, chap. iv. 12, 13, and 19.



§ 1. Having thus glanced at the principal modes in which the
imagination works for evil, we must rapidly note also the principal
directions in which its operation is admissible, even in changing or
strangely combining what is brought within its sphere.

For hitherto we have spoken as if every change wilfully wrought by
the imagination was an error; apparently implying that its only
proper work was to summon up the memories of past events, and the
anticipations of future ones, under aspects which would bear the
sternest tests of historical investigation, or abstract reasoning.
And in general this is, indeed, its noblest work. Nevertheless, it
has also permissible functions peculiarly its own, and certain
rights of feigning, and adorning, and fancifully arranging,
inalienable from its nature. Everything that is natural is, within
certain limits, right; and we must take care not, in over-severity,
to deprive ourselves of any refreshing or animating power ordained
to be in us for our help.

§ 2. (A). It was noted in speaking above of the Angelican or
passionate ideal, that there was a certain virtue in it dependent on
the expression of its loving enthusiasm. (Chap. IV. § 10.)

(B). In speaking of the pursuit of beauty as one of the
characteristics of the highest art, it was also said that there were
certain ways of showing this beauty by gathering together, without
altering, the finest forms, and marking them by gentle emphasis.
(Chap. III. § 15.)

(C). And in speaking of the true uses of imagination it was said, that
we might be allowed to create for ourselves, in innocent play, fairies
and naiads, and other such fictitious creatures. (Chap. IV. § 5.)

Now this loving enthusiasm, which seeks for a beauty fit to be the
object of eternal love; this inventive skill, which kindly displays
what exists around us in the world; and this playful energy of
thought which delights in various conditions of the impossible, are
three forms of idealism more or less connected with the three
tendencies of the artistical mind which I had occasion to explain in
the chapter on the Nature of Gothic, in the Stones of Venice. It was
there pointed out, that, the things around us containing mixed good
and evil, certain men chose the good and left the evil (thence
properly called Purists); others received both good and evil
together (thence properly called Naturalists); and others had a
tendency to choose the evil and leave the good, whom, for
convenience' sake, I termed Sensualists. I do not mean to say that
painters of fairies and naiads must belong to this last and lowest
class, or habitually choose the evil and leave the good; but there
is, nevertheless, a strange connection between the reinless play of
the imagination, and a sense of the presence of evil, which is
usually more or less developed in those creations of the imagination
to which we properly attach the word _Grotesque_.

For this reason, we shall find it convenient to arrange what we have
to note respecting true idealism under the three heads--

  A. Purist Idealism.
  B. Naturalist Idealism.
  C. Grotesque Idealism.

§ 3. A. Purist Idealism.--It results from the unwillingness of men
whose dispositions are more than ordinarily tender and holy, to
contemplate the various forms of definite evil which necessarily
occur in the daily aspects of the world around them. They shrink
from them as from pollution, and endeavor to create for themselves
an imaginary state, in which pain and imperfection either do not
exist, or exist in some edgeless and enfeebled condition.

As, however, pain and imperfection are, by eternal laws, bound up
with existence, so far as it is visible to us, the endeavor to cast
them away invariably indicates a comparative childishness of mind,
and produces a childish form of art. In general, the effort is most
successful when it is most naïve, and when the ignorance of the
draughtsman is in some frank proportion to his innocence. For
instance, one of the modes of treatment, the most conducive to this
ideal expression, is simply drawing everything without shadows, as
if the sun were everywhere at once. This, in the present state of
our knowledge, we could not do with grace, because we could not do
it without fear or shame. But an artist of the thirteenth century
did it with no disturbance of conscience,--knowing no better, or
rather, in some sense, we might say, knowing no worse. It is,
however, evident, at first thought, that all representations of
nature without evil must either be ideals of a future world, or be
false ideals, if they are understood to be representations of facts.
They can only be classed among the branches of the true ideal, in so
far as they are understood to be nothing more than expressions of
the painter's personal affections or hopes.

§ 4. Let us take one or two instances in order clearly to explain
our meaning.

The life of Angelico was almost entirely spent in the endeavor to
imagine the beings belonging to another world. By purity of life,
habitual elevation of thought, and natural sweetness of disposition,
he was enabled to express the sacred affections upon the human
countenance as no one ever did before or since. In order to effect
clearer distinction between heavenly beings and those of this world,
he represents the former as clothed in draperies of the purest
color, crowned with glories of burnished gold, and entirely
shadowless. With exquisite choice of gesture, and disposition of
folds of drapery, this mode of treatment gives perhaps the best idea
of spiritual beings which the human mind is capable of forming. It
is, therefore, a true ideal;[22] but the mode in which it is arrived
at (being so far mechanical and contradictory of the appearances of
nature) necessarily precludes those who practise it from being
complete masters of their art. It is always childish, but beautiful
in its childishness.

§ 5. The works of our own Stothard are examples of the operation of
another mind, singular in gentleness and purity, upon mere worldly
subject. It seems as if Stothard could not conceive wickedness,
coarseness, or baseness; every one of his figures looks as if it had
been copied from some creature who had never harbored an unkind
thought, or permitted itself in an ignoble action. With this immense
love of mental purity is joined, in Stothard, a love of mere
physical smoothness and softness, so that he lived in a universe of
soft grass and stainless fountains, tender trees, and stones at
which no foot could stumble.

All this is very beautiful, and may sometimes urge us to an endeavor
to make the world itself more like the conception of the painter. At
least, in the midst of its malice, misery, and baseness, it is often a
relief to glance at the graceful shadows, and take, for momentary
companionship, creatures full only of love, gladness, and honor. But
the perfect truth will at last vindicate itself against the partial
truth; the help which we can gain from the unsubstantial vision will
be only like that which we may sometimes receive, in weariness, from
the scent of a flower or the passing of a breeze. For all firm aid and
steady use, we must look to harder realities; and, as far as the
painter himself is regarded, we can only receive such work as the sign
of an amiable imbecility. It is indeed ideal; but ideal as a fair
dream is in the dawn of morning, before the faculties are astir. The
apparent completeness of grace can never be attained without much
definite falsification as well as omission; stones, over which we
cannot stumble, must be ill-drawn stones; trees, which are all
gentleness and softness, cannot be trees of wood; nor companies
without evil in them, companies of flesh and blood. The habit of
falsification (with whatever aim) begins always in dulness and ends
always in incapacity; nothing can be more pitiable than any endeavor
by Stothard to express facts beyond his own sphere of soft pathos or
graceful mirth, and nothing more unwise than the aim at a similar
ideality by any painter who has power to render a sincerer truth.

§ 6. I remember another interesting example of ideality on this same
root, but belonging to another branch of it, in the works of a young
German painter, which I saw some time ago in a London drawingroom.
He had been travelling in Italy, and had brought home a portfolio of
sketches remarkable alike for their fidelity and purity. Every one
was a laborious and accurate study of some particular spot. Every
cottage, every cliff, every tree, at the site chosen, had been
drawn; and drawn with palpable sincerity of portraiture, and yet in
such a spirit that it was impossible to conceive that any sin or
misery had ever entered into one of the scenes he had represented;
and the volcanic horrors of Radicofani, the pestilent gloom of the
Pontines, and the boundless despondency of the Campagna became under
his hand, only various appearances of Paradise.

It was very interesting to observe the minute emendations or
omissions by which this was effected. To set the tiles the slightest
degree more in order upon a cottage roof; to insist upon the
vine-leaves at the window, and let the shadow which fell from them
naturally conceal the rent in the wall; to draw all the flowers in
the foreground, and miss the weeds; to draw all the folds of the
white clouds, and miss those of the black ones; to mark the graceful
branches of the trees, and, in one way or another, beguile the eye
from those which were ungainly; to give every peasant-girl whose
face was visible the expression of an angel, and every one whose
back was turned the bearing of a princess; finally, to give a
general look of light, clear organization, and serene vitality to
every feature in the landscape;--such were his artifices, and such
his delights. It was impossible not to sympathize deeply with the
spirit of such a painter; and it was just cause for gratitude to be
permitted to travel, as it were, through Italy with such a friend.
But his work had, nevertheless, its stern limitations and marks of
everlasting inferiority. Always soothing and pathetic, it could
never be sublime, never perfectly nor entrancingly beautiful; for
the narrow spirit of correction could not cast itself fully into any
scene; the calm cheerfulness which shrank from the shadow of the
cypress, and the distortion of the olive, could not enter into the
brightness of the sky that they pierced, nor the softness of the
bloom that they bore: for every sorrow that his heart turned from,
he lost a consolation; for every fear which he dared not confront,
he lost a portion of his hardiness; the unsceptred sweep of the
storm-clouds, the fair freedom of glancing shower and flickering
sunbeam, sank into sweet rectitudes and decent formalisms; and,
before eyes that refused to be dazzled or darkened, the hours of
sunset wreathed their rays unheeded, and the mists of the Apennines
spread their blue veils in vain.

§ 7. To this inherent shortcoming and narrowness of reach the farther
defect was added, that this work gave no useful representation of the
state of facts in the country which it pretended to contemplate. It was
not only wanting in all the higher elements of beauty, but wholly
unavailable for instruction of any kind beyond that which exists in
pleasurableness of pure emotion. And considering what cost of labor was
devoted to the series of drawings, it could not but be matter for grave
blame, as well as for partial contempt, that a man of amiable feeling
and considerable intellectual power should thus expend his life in the
declaration of his own petty pieties and pleasant reveries, leaving the
burden of human sorrow unwitnessed; and the power of God's judgments
unconfessed; and, while poor Italy lay wounded and moaning at his feet,
pass by, in priestly calm, lest the whiteness of his decent vesture
should be spotted with unhallowed blood.

§ 8. Of several other forms of Purism I shall have to speak
hereafter, more especially of that exhibited in the landscapes of
the early religious painters; but these examples are enough, for the
present, to show the general principle that the purest ideal, though
in some measure true, in so far as it springs from the true longings
of an earnest mind, is yet necessarily in many things deficient or
blamable, and _always_ an indication of some degree of weakness in
the mind pursuing it. But, on the other hand, it is to be noted that
entire scorn of this purist ideal is the sign of a far greater
weakness. Multitudes of petty artists, incapable of any noble
sensation whatever, but acquainted, in a dim way, with the
technicalities of the schools, mock at the art whose depths they
cannot fathom, and whose motives they cannot comprehend, but of
which they can easily detect the imperfections, and deride the
simplicities. Thus poor fumigatory Fuseli, with an art composed of
the tinsel of the stage and the panics of the nursery, speaks
contemptuously of the name of Angelico as "dearer to sanctity than
to art." And a large portion of the resistance to the noble
Pre-Raphaelite movement of our own days has been offered by men who
suppose the entire function of the artist in this world to consist
in laying on color with a large brush, and surrounding dashes of
flake white with bituminous brown; men whose entire capacities of
brain, soul, and sympathy, applied industriously to the end of their
lives, would not enable them, at last, to paint so much as one of
the leaves of the nettles at the bottom of Hunt's picture of the
Light of the World.[23]

§ 9. It is finally to be remembered, therefore, that Purism is always
noble when it is _instinctive_. It is not the greatest thing that can
be done, but it is probably the greatest thing that the man who does
it can do, provided it comes from his heart. True, it is a sign of
weakness, but it is not in our choice whether we will be weak or
strong; and there is a certain strength which can only be made perfect
in weakness. If he is working in humility, fear of evil, desire of
beauty, and sincere purity of purpose and thought, he will produce
good and helpful things; but he must be much on his guard against
supposing himself to be greater than his fellows, because he has shut
himself into this calm and cloistered sphere. His only safety lies in
knowing himself to be, on the contrary, _less_ than his fellows, and
in always striving, so far as he can find it in his heart, to extend
his delicate narrowness towards the great naturalist ideal. The whole
group of modern German purists have lost themselves, because they
founded their work not on humility, nor on religion, but on small
self-conceit. Incapable of understanding the great Venetians, or any
other masters of true imaginative power, and having fed what mind they
had with weak poetry and false philosophy, they thought themselves the
best and greatest of artistic mankind, and expected to found a new
school of painting in pious plagiarism and delicate pride. It is
difficult at first to decide which is the more worthless, the
spiritual affectation of the petty German, or the composition and
chiaroscuro of the petty Englishman; on the whole, however, the latter
have lightest weight, for the pseudo-religious painter must, at all
events, pass much of his time in meditation upon solemn subjects, and
in examining venerable models; and may sometimes even cast a little
useful reflected light, or touch the heart with a pleasant echo.

  [22] As noted above in Chap. IV § 20.

  [23] Not that the Pre-Raphaelite is a purist movement, it is stern
       naturalist; but its unfortunate opposers, who neither know
       what nature is, nor what purism is, have mistaken the simple
       nature for morbid purism, and therefore cried out against it.



§ 1. We now enter on the consideration of that central and highest
branch of ideal art which concerns itself simply with things as they
ARE, and accepts, in all of them, alike the evil and the good. The
question is, therefore, how the art which represents things simply as
they are, can be called ideal at all. How does it meet that
requirement stated in Chap. III. § 4, as imperative on all great art,
that it shall be inventive, and a product of the imagination? It meets
it preeminently by that power of arrangement which I have endeavored,
at great length and with great pains, to define accurately in the
chapter on Imagination associative in the second volume. That is to
say, accepting the weaknesses, faults, and wrongnesses in all things
that it sees, it so places and harmonizes them that they form a noble
whole, in which the imperfection of each several part is not only
harmless, but absolutely essential, and yet in which whatever is good
in each several part shall be completely displayed.

§ 2. This operation of true idealism holds, from the least things to
the greatest. For instance, in the arrangement of the smallest masses
of color, the false idealist, or even the purist, depends upon
perfecting each separate hue, and raises them all, as far as he can,
into costly brilliancy; but the naturalist takes the coarsest and
feeblest colors of the things around him, and so interweaves and
opposes them that they become more lovely than if they had all been
bright. So in the treatment of the human form. The naturalist will
take it as he finds it; but, with such examples as his picture may
rationally admit of more or less exalted beauty, he will associate
inferior forms, so as not only to set off those which are most
beautiful, but to bring out clearly what good there is in the inferior
forms themselves; finally using such measure of absolute evil as
there is commonly in nature, both for teaching and for contrast.

In Tintoret's Adoration of the Magi, the Madonna is not an enthroned
queen, but a fair girl, full of simplicity and almost childish
sweetness. To her are opposed (as Magi) two of the noblest and most
thoughtful of the Venetian senators in extreme old age,--the utmost
manly dignity, in its decline, being set beside the utmost feminine
simplicity, in its dawn. The steep foreheads and refined features of
the nobles are, again, opposed to the head of a negro servant, and
of an Indian, both, however, noble of their kind. On the other side
of the picture, the delicacy of the Madonna is farther enhanced by
contrast with a largely made farm-servant, leaning on a basket. All
these figures are in repose: outside, the troop of the attendants of
the Magi is seen coming up at the gallop.

§ 3. I bring forward this picture, observe, not as an example of the
ideal in conception of religious subject, but of the general ideal
treatment of the human form; in which the peculiarity is, that the
beauty of each figure is displayed to the utmost, while yet, taken
separately the Madonna is an unaltered portrait of a Venetian girl,
the Magi are unaltered Venetian Senators, and the figure with the
basket, an unaltered market-woman of Mestre.

And the greater the master of the ideal, the more perfectly true in
_portraiture_ will his individual figures be always found, the more
subtle and bold his arts of harmony and contrast. This is a universal
principle, common to all great art. Consider, in Shakspere, how Prince
Henry is opposed to Falstaff, Falstaff to Shallow, Titania to Bottom,
Cordelia to Regan, Imogen to Cloten, and so on; while all the meaner
idealists disdain the naturalism, and are shocked at the contrasts.
The fact is, a man who can see truth at all, sees it wholly, and
neither desires nor dares to mutilate it.

§ 4. It is evident that _within_ this faithful idealism, and as one
branch of it only, will arrange itself the representation of the
human form and mind in perfection, when this perfection is
rationally to be supposed or introduced,--that is to say, in the
highest personages of the story. The careless habit of confining the
term "ideal" to such representations, and not understanding the
imperfect ones to be _equally_ ideal in their place, has greatly
added to the embarrassment and multiplied the errors of artists.[24]
Thersites is just as ideal as Achilles, and Alecto as Helen; and,
what is more, all the nobleness of the beautiful ideal depends upon
its being just as probable and natural as the ugly one, and having
in itself, occasionally or partially, both faults and familiarities.
If the next painter who desires to illustrate the character of
Homer's Achilles, would represent him cutting pork chops for
Ulysses,[25] he would enable the public to understand the Homeric
ideal better than they have done for several centuries. For it is to
be kept in mind that the _naturalist ideal_ has always in it, to the
full, the power expressed by those two words. It is naturalist,
because studied from nature, and ideal, because it is mentally
arranged in a certain manner. Achilles must be represented cutting
pork chops, because that was one of the things which the nature of
Achilles involved his doing: he could not be shown wholly as
Achilles, if he were not shown doing that. But he shall do it at
such time and place as Homer chooses.

§ 5. Now, therefore, observe the main conclusions which follow from
these two conditions, attached always to art of this kind. First, it
is to be taken straight from nature; it is to be the plain narration
of something the painter or writer saw. Herein is the chief practical
difference between the higher and lower artists; a difference which I
feel more and more every day that I give to the study of art. All the
great men see what they paint before they paint it,--see it in a
perfectly passive manner,--cannot help seeing it if they would;
whether in their mind's eye, or in bodily fact, does not matter; very
often the mental vision is, I believe, in men of imagination, clearer
than the bodily one; but vision it is, of one kind or another,--the
whole scene, character, or incident passing before them as in second
sight, whether they will or no, and requiring them to paint it as they
see it; they not daring, under the might of its presence, to
alter[26] one jot or tittle of it as they write it down or paint it
down; it being to them in its own kind and degree always a true vision
or Apocalypse, and invariably accompanied in their hearts by a feeling
correspondent to the words,--"Write the things _which thou hast seen_,
and the things which _are_."

And the whole power, whether of painter or poet, to describe rightly
what we call an ideal thing, depends upon its being thus, to him, not
an ideal, but a _real_ thing. No man ever did or ever will work well,
but either from actual sight or sight of faith; and all that we call
ideal in Greek or any other art, because to us it is false and
visionary, was, to the makers of it, true and existent. The heroes of
Phidias are simply representations of such noble human persons as he
every day saw, and the gods of Phidias simply representations of such
noble divine persons as he thoroughly believed to exist, and did in
mental vision truly behold. Hence I said in the second preface to the
Seven Lamps of Architecture: "All great art represents something that
it sees or believes in; nothing unseen or uncredited."

§ 6. And just because it is always something that it sees or
believes in, there is the peculiar character above noted, almost
unmistakable, in all high and true ideals, of having been as it were
studied from the life, and involving pieces of sudden familiarity,
and close _specific_ painting which never would have been admitted
or even thought of, had not the painter drawn either from the bodily
life or from the life of faith. For instance, Dante's centaur,
Chiron, dividing his beard with his arrow before he can speak, is a
thing that no mortal would ever have thought of, if he had not
actually seen the centaur do it. They might have composed handsome
bodies of men and horses in all possible ways, through a whole life
of pseudo-idealism, and yet never dreamed of any such thing. But the
real living centaur actually trotted across Dante's brain, and he
saw him do it.

§ 7. And on account of this reality it is, that the great idealists
venture into all kinds of what, to the pseudo-idealists, are
"vulgarities." Nay, _venturing_ is the wrong word; the great men
have no choice in the matter; they do not know or care whether the
things they describe are vulgarities or not. They _saw_ them: they
are the facts of the case. If they had merely composed what they
describe, they would have had it at their will to refuse this
circumstance or add that. But they did not compose it. It came to
them ready fashioned; they were too much impressed by it to think
what was vulgar or not vulgar in it. It might be a very wrong thing
in a centaur to have so much beard; but so it was. And, therefore,
among the various ready tests of true greatness there is not any
more certain than this daring reference to, or use of, mean and
little things--mean and little, that is, to mean and little minds;
but, when used by the great men, evidently part of the noble whole
which is authoritatively present before them. Thus, in the highest
poetry, as partly above noted in the first chapter, there is no word
so familiar but a great man will bring good out of it, or rather, it
will bring good to him, and answer some end for which no other word
would have done equally well.

§ 8. A common person, for instance, would be mightily puzzled to apply
the word "whelp" to any one with a view of flattering him. There is a
certain freshness and energy in the term, which gives it
agreeableness; but it seems difficult, at first hearing, to use it
complimentarily. If the person spoken of be a prince, the difficulty
seems increased; and when, farther, he is at one and the same moment
to be called a "whelp" and contemplated as a hero, it seems that a
common idealist might well be brought to a pause. But hear Shakspere
do it:--

                           "Invoke his warlike spirit,
      And your great uncle's, Edward the Black Prince,
      Who on the French ground play'd a tragedy,
      Making defeat on the full power of France,
      While his most mighty father on a hill
      Stood smiling, to behold his lion's whelp
      Forage in blood of French nobility."

So a common idealist would have been rather alarmed at the thought
of introducing the name of a street in Paris--Straw Street--Rue de
Fouarre--into the midst of a description of the highest heavens. Not
so Dante,--

      "Beyond, thou mayst the flaming lustre scan
        Of Isidore, of Bede, and that Richart
      Who was in contemplation more than man.
      And he, from whom thy looks returning are
        To me, a spirit was, that in austere
      Deep musings often thought death kept too far.
      That is the light eternal of Sigier,
        Who while in Rue de Fouarre his days he wore,
      Has argued hateful truths in haughtiest ear."    CAYLEY.

What did it matter to Dante, up in heaven there, whether the mob
below thought him vulgar or not! Sigier _had_ read in Straw Street;
that was the fact, and he had to say so, and there an end.

§ 9. There is, indeed, perhaps, no greater sign of innate and _real_
vulgarity of mind or defective education than the want of power to
understand the universality of the ideal truth; the absence of
sympathy with the colossal grasp of those intellects, which have in
them so much of divine, that nothing is small to them, and nothing
large; but with equal and unoffended vision they take in the sum of
the world,--Straw Street and the seventh heavens,--in the same
instant. A certain portion of this divine spirit is visible even in
the lower examples of all the true men; it is, indeed, perhaps, the
clearest test of their belonging to the true and great group, that
they are continually touching what to the multitude appear
vulgarities. The higher a man stands, the more the word "vulgar"
becomes unintelligible to him. Vulgar? what, that poor farmer's girl
of William Hunt's, bred in the stable, putting on her Sunday gown,
and pinning her best cap out of the green and red pin-cushion! Not
so; she may be straight on the road to those high heavens, and may
shine hereafter as one of the stars in the firmament for ever. Nay,
even that lady in the satin bodice with her arm laid over a
balustrade to show it, and her eyes turned up to heaven to show
them; and the sportsman waving his rifle for the terror of beasts,
and displaying his perfect dress for the delight of men, are kept,
by the very misery and vanity of them, in the thoughts of a great
painter, at a sorrowful level, somewhat above vulgarity. It is only
when the minor painter takes them on his easel, that they become
things for the universe to be ashamed of.

We may dismiss this matter of vulgarity in plain and few words, at
least as far as regards art. There is never vulgarity in a _whole_
truth, however commonplace. It may be unimportant or painful. It
cannot be vulgar. Vulgarity is only in concealment of truth, or in

§ 10. "Well, but," (at this point the reader asks doubtfully,) "if
then your great central idealist is to show all truth, low as well
as lovely, receiving it in this passive way, what becomes of all
your principles of selection, and of setting in the right place,
which you were talking about up to the end of your fourth paragraph?
How is Homer to enforce upon Achilles the cutting of the pork chops
'only at such time as Homer chooses,' if Homer is to have _no_
choice, but merely to see the thing done, and sing it as he sees
it?" Why, the choice, as well as the vision, is _manifested_ to
Homer. The vision comes to him in its chosen order. Chosen _for_
him, not _by_ him, but yet full of visible and exquisite choice,
just as a sweet and perfect dream will come to a sweet and perfect
person, so that, in some sense, they may be said to have chosen
their dream, or composed it; and yet they could not help dreaming it
so, and in no other wise. Thus, exactly thus, in all results of true
inventive power, the whole harmony of the thing done seems as if it
had been wrought by the most exquisite rules. But to him who did it,
it presented itself so, and his will, and knowledge, and
personality, for the moment went for nothing; he became simply a
scribe, and wrote what he heard and saw.

And all efforts to do things of a similar kind by rule or by
thought, and all efforts to mend or rearrange the first order of the
vision, are not inventive; on the contrary, they ignore and deny
invention. If any man, seeing certain forms laid on the canvas, does
by his reasoning power determine that certain changes wrought in
them would mend or enforce them, that is not only uninventive, but
contrary to invention, which must be the involuntary occurrence of
certain forms or fancies to the mind in the order they are to be
portrayed. Thus the knowing of rules and the exertion of judgment
have a tendency to check and confuse the fancy in its flow; so that
it will follow, that, in exact proportion as a master knows anything
about rules of right and wrong, he is likely to be uninventive; and
in exact proportion as he holds higher rank and has nobler
inventive power, he will know less of rules; not despising them, but
simply feeling that between him and them there is nothing in
common,--that dreams cannot be ruled--that as they come, so they
must be caught, and they cannot be caught in any other shape than
that they come in; and that he might as well attempt to rule a
rainbow into rectitude, or cut notches in a moth's wings to hold it
by, as in any wise attempt to modify, by rule, the forms of the
involuntary vision.

§ 11. And this, which by reason we have thus anticipated, is in
reality universally so. There is no exception. The great men never
know how or why they do things. They have no rules; cannot
comprehend the nature of rules;--do not, usually, even know, in what
they do, what is best or what is worst: to them it is all the same;
something they cannot help saying or doing,--one piece of it as good
as another, and none of it (it seems to _them_) worth much. The
moment any man begins to talk about rules, in whatsoever art, you
may know him for a second-rate man; and, if he talks about them
_much_, he is a third-rate, or not an artist at all. To _this_ rule
there is no exception in any art; but it is perhaps better to be
illustrated in the art of music than in that of painting. I fell by
chance the other day upon a work of De Stendhal's, "Vies de Haydn,
de Mozart, et de Metastase," fuller of common sense than any book I
ever read on the arts; though I see, by the slight references made
occasionally to painting, that the author's knowledge therein is
warped and limited by the elements of general teaching in the
schools around him; and I have not yet, therefore, looked at what he
has separately written on painting. But one or two passages out of
this book on music are closely to our present purpose.

"Counterpoint is related to mathematics: a fool, with patience,
becomes a respectable savant in that; but for the part of genius,
melody, it has no rules. No art is so utterly deprived of precepts
for the production of the beautiful. So much the better for it and
for us. Cimarosa, when first at Prague his air was executed, Pria
che spunti in ciel l'Aurora, never heard the pedants say to him,
'Your air is fine, because you have followed such and such a rule
established by Pergolese in such an one of his airs; but it would
be finer still if you had conformed yourself to such another rule
from which Galluppi never deviated.'"

Yes: "so much the better for it, and for us;" but I trust the time
will soon come when melody in painting will be understood, no less
than in music, and when people will find that, there also, the great
melodists have no rules, and cannot have any, and that there are in
this, as in sound, "no precepts for the production of the beautiful."

§ 12. Again. "Behold, my friend, an example of that simple way of
answering which embarrasses much. One asked him (Haydn) the _reason_
for a harmony--for a passage's being assigned to one instrument
rather than another; but all he ever answered was, 'I have done it,
because it does well.'" Farther on, De Stendhal relates an anecdote
of Haydn; I believe one well known, but so much to our purpose that
I repeat it. Haydn had agreed to give some lessons in counterpoint
to an English nobleman. "'For our first lesson,' said the pupil,
already learned in the art--drawing at the same time a quatuor of
Haydn's from his pocket, 'for our first lesson may we examine this
quatuor; and will you tell me the reasons of certain modulations,
which I cannot entirely approve because they are contrary to the
principles?' Haydn, a little surprised, declared himself ready to
answer. The nobleman began; and at the very first measures found
matter for objection. Haydn, _who invented habitually_, and who was
the contrary of a pedant, found himself much embarrassed, and
answered always, 'I have done that because it has a good effect. I
have put that passage there because it does well.' The Englishman,
who judged that these answers proved nothing, recommenced his
proofs, and demonstrated to him, by very good reasons, that his
quatuor was good for nothing. 'But, my lord, arrange this quatuor
then to your fancy,--play it so, and you will see which of the two
ways is the best.' 'But why is yours the best which is contrary to
the rules?' 'Because it is the pleasantest.' The nobleman replied.
Haydn at last lost patience, and said, 'I see, my lord, it is you
who have the goodness to give lessons to me, and truly I am forced
to confess to you that I do not deserve the honor.' The partizan of
the rules departed, still astonished that in following the rules to
the letter one cannot infallibly produce a 'Matrimonio Segreto.'"

This anecdote, whether in all points true or not, is in its tendency
most instructive, except only in that it makes _one_ false inference
or admission, namely, that a good composition can be _contrary_ to
the rules. It may be contrary to certain principles, supposed in
ignorance to be general; but every great composition is in perfect
harmony with all true rules, and involves thousands too delicate for
ear, or eye, or thought, to trace; still it is possible to reason,
with infinite pleasure and profit, about these principles, when the
thing is once done; only, all our reasoning will not enable any one
to do another thing like it, because all reasoning falls infinitely
short of the divine instinct. Thus we may reason wisely over the way
a bee builds its comb, and be profited by finding out certain things
about the angles of it. But the bee knows nothing about those
matters. It builds its comb in a far more inevitable way. And, from
a bee to Paul Veronese, all master-workers work with this awful,
this inspired unconsciousness.

§ 13. I said just now that there was no exception to _this_ law,
that the great men never knew how or why they did things. It is, of
course, only with caution that such a broad statement should be
made; but I have seen much of different kinds of artists, and I have
always found the knowledge of, and attention to, rules so
_accurately_ in the inverse ratio to the power of the painter, that
I have myself no doubt that the law is constant, and that men's
smallness may be trigonometrically estimated by the attention which,
in their work, they pay to principles, especially principles of
composition. The general way in which the great men speak is of
"_trying_ to do" this or that, just as a child would tell of
something he had seen and could not utter. Thus, in speaking of the
drawing of which I have given an etching farther on (a scene on the
St. Gothard[27]), Turner asked if I had been to see "that litter of
stones which I _endeavored_ to represent;" and William Hunt, when I
asked him one day as he was painting, why he put on such and such a
color, answered, "I don't know; I am just _aiming_ at it;" and
Turner, and he, and all the other men I have known who could paint,
always spoke and speak in the same way; not in any selfish restraint
of their knowledge, but in pure simplicity. While all the men whom I
know, who _cannot_ paint, are ready with admirable reasons for
everything they have done; and can show, in the most conclusive way,
that Turner is wrong, and how he might be improved.

§ 14. And this is the reason for the somewhat singular, but very
palpable truth that the Chinese, and Indians, and other semi-civilized
nations, can color better than we do, and that an Indian shawl or
Chinese vase are still, in invention of color, inimitable by us. It is
their glorious ignorance of all rules that does it; the pure and true
instincts have play, and do their work,--instincts so subtle, that the
least warping or compression breaks or blunts them; and the moment we
begin teaching people any rules about color, and make them do this or
that, we crush the instinct generally for ever. Hence, hitherto, it has
been an actual necessity, in order to obtain power of coloring, that a
nation should be half-savage: everybody could color in the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries; but we were ruled and legalized into grey in the
fifteenth;--only a little salt simplicity of their sea natures at
Venice still keeping their precious, shellfishy purpleness and power;
and now that is gone; and nobody can color anywhere, except the Hindoos
and Chinese; but that need not be so, and will not be so long; for, in
a little while, people will find out their mistake, and give up talking
about rules of color, and then everybody will color again, as easily as
they now talk.

§ 15. Such, then, being the generally passive or instinctive character
of right invention, it may be asked how these unmanageable instincts
are to be rendered practically serviceable in historical or poetical
painting,--especially historical, in which given facts are to be
represented. Simply by the sense and self-control of the whole man;
not by control of the particular fancy or vision. He who habituates
himself, in his daily life, to seek for the stern facts in whatever he
hears or sees, will have these facts again brought before him by the
involuntary imaginative power in their noblest associations; and he
who seeks for frivolities and fallacies, will have frivolities and
fallacies again presented to him in his dreams. Thus if, in reading
history for the purpose of painting from it, the painter severely
seeks for the accurate circumstances of every event; as, for instance,
determining the exact spot of ground on which his hero fell, the way
he must have been looking at the moment, the height the sun was at (by
the hour of the day), and the way in which the light must have fallen
upon his face, the actual number and individuality of the persons by
him at the moment, and such other veritable details, ascertaining and
dwelling upon them without the slightest care for any desirableness or
poetic propriety in them, but for their own truth's sake; then these
truths will afterwards rise up and form the body of his imaginative
vision, perfected and united as his inspiration may teach. But if, in
reading the history, he does not regard these facts, but thinks only
how it might all most prettily, and properly, and impressively have
happened, then there is nothing but prettiness and propriety to form
the body of his future imagination, and his whole ideal becomes false.
So, in the higher or expressive part of the work, the whole virtue of
it depends on his being able to quit his own personality, and enter
successively into the hearts and thoughts of each person; and in all
this he is still passive: in gathering the truth he is passive, not
determining what the truth to be gathered shall be; and in the after
vision he is passive, not determining, but as his dreams will have it,
what the truth to be represented shall be; only according to his own
nobleness is his power of entering into the hearts of noble persons,
and the general character of his dream of them.[28]

§ 16. It follows from all this, evidently, that a great idealist
never can be egotistic. The whole of his power depends upon his
losing sight and feeling of his own existence, and becoming a mere
witness and mirror of truth, and a scribe of visions,--always
passive in sight, passive in utterance,--lamenting continually that
he cannot completely reflect nor clearly utter all he has seen. Not
by any means a proud state for a man to be in. But the man who has
no invention is always setting things in order, and putting the
world to rights, and mending, and beautifying, and pluming himself
on his doings as supreme in all ways.

§ 17. There is still the question open, What are the principal
directions in which this ideal faculty is to exercise itself most
usefully for mankind?

This question, however, is not to the purpose of our present work,
which respects landscape-painting only; it must be one of those left
open to the reader's thoughts, and for future inquiry in another
place. One or two essential points I briefly notice.

In Chap. IV. § 5. it was said, that one of the first functions of
imagination was traversing the scenes of history, and forcing the
facts to become again visible. But there is so little of such force
in written history, that it is no marvel there should be none
hitherto in painting. There does not exist, as far as I know, in the
world a single example of a good historical picture (that is to say,
of one which, allowing for necessary dimness in art as compared with
nature, yet answers nearly the same ends in our minds as the sight
of the real event would have answered); the reason being, the
universal endeavor to get _effects_ instead of facts, already shown
as the root of false idealism. True historical ideal, founded on
sense, correctness of knowledge, and purpose of usefulness, does not
yet exist; the production of it is a task which the closing
nineteenth century may propose to itself.

§ 18. Another point is to be observed. I do not, as the reader may
have lately perceived, insist on the distinction between historical
and poetical painting, because, as noted in the 22nd paragraph of
the third chapter, all great painting must be both.

Nevertheless, a certain distinction must generally exist between men
who, like Horace Vernet, David, or Domenico Tintoret, would employ
themselves in painting, more or less graphically, the outward
verities of passing events--battles, councils, &c.--of their day
(who, supposing them to work worthily of their mission, would
become, properly so called, historical or narrative painters); and
men who sought, in scenes of perhaps less outward importance, "noble
grounds for noble emotion;"--who would be, in a certain separate
sense, _poetical_ painters, some of them taking for subjects events
which had actually happened, and others themes from the poets; or,
better still, becoming poets themselves in the entire sense, and
inventing the story as they painted it. Painting seems to me only
just to be beginning, in this sense also, to take its proper
position beside literature, and the pictures of the "Awakening
Conscience," "Huguenot," and such others, to be the first fruits of
its new effort.

§ 19. Finally, as far as I can observe, it is a constant law that
the greatest men, whether poets or historians, live entirely in
their own age, and that the greatest fruits of their work are
gathered out of their own age. Dante paints Italy in the thirteenth
century; Chaucer, England in the fourteenth; Masaccio, Florence in
the fifteenth; Tintoret, Venice in the sixteenth;--all of them
utterly regardless of anachronism and minor error of every kind, but
getting always vital truth out of the vital present.

§ 20. If it be said that Shakspere wrote perfect historical plays on
subjects belonging to the preceding centuries, I answer, that they
_are_ perfect plays just because there is no care about centuries in
them, but a life which all men recognise for the human life of all
time; and this it is, not because Shakspere sought to give universal
truth, but because, painting honestly and completely from the men
about him, he painted that human nature which is, indeed, constant
enough,--a rogue in the fifteenth century being, _at heart_, what a
rogue is in the nineteenth and was in the twelfth; and an honest or
a knightly man being, in like manner, very similar to other such at
any other time. And the work of these great idealists is, therefore,
always universal; not because it is _not portrait_, but because it
is _complete_ portrait down to the heart, which is the same in all
ages: and the work of the mean idealists is _not_ universal, not
because it is portrait, but because it is _half_ portrait,--of the
outside, the manners and the dress, not of the heart. Thus Tintoret
and Shakspere paint, both of them, simply Venetian and English
nature as they saw it in their time, down to the root; and it does
for _all_ time; but as for any care to cast themselves into the
particular ways and tones of thought, or custom, of past time in
their historical work, you will find it in neither of them, nor in
any other perfectly great man that I know of.

§ 21. If there had been no vital truth in their present, it is hard to
say what these men could have done. I suppose, primarily, they would
not have existed; that they, and the matter they have to treat of, are
given together, and that the strength of the nation and its historians
correlatively rise and fall--Herodotus springing out of the dust of
Marathon. It is also hard to say how far our better general
acquaintance with minor details of past history may make us able to
turn the shadow on the imaginative dial backwards, and naturally to
live, and even live strongly if we choose, in past periods; but this
main truth will always be unshaken, that the only historical painting
deserving the name is portraiture of our own living men and our own
passing times,[29] and that all efforts to summon up the events of
bygone periods, though often useful and touching, must come under an
inferior class of poetical painting; nor will it, I believe, ever be
much followed as their main work by the strongest men, but only by the
weaker and comparatively sentimental (rather than imaginative) groups.
This marvellous first half of the nineteenth century has in this
matter, as in nearly all others, been making a double blunder. It has,
under the name of improvement, done all it could to EFFACE THE RECORDS
which departed ages have left of themselves, while it has declared the
FORGERY OF FALSE RECORDS of these same ages to be the great work of
its historical painters! I trust that in a few years more we shall
come somewhat to our senses in the matter, and begin to perceive that
our duty is to preserve what the past has had to say for itself, and
to say for ourselves also what shall be true for the future. Let us
strive, with just veneration for that future, first to do what is
worthy to be spoken, and then to speak it faithfully; and, with
veneration for the past, recognize that it is indeed in the power of
love to preserve the monument, but not of incantation to raise the

  [24] The word "ideal" is used in this limited sense in the chapter
       on Generic Beauty in the second volume, but under protest.
       See § 4 in that chapter.

  [25] II. ix. 209.

  [26] "And yet you have just said it shall be at such time and
       place as Homer chooses. Is not this _altering_?" No; wait a
       little, and read on.

  [27] See Plate XXI. in Chap. III. Vol. IV.

  [28] The reader should, of course, refer for further details on
       this subject to the chapters on Imagination in Vol. II., of
       which I am only glancing now at the practical results.

  [29] See Edinburgh Lectures, p. 217.



§ 1. I have already, in the Stones of Venice, had occasion to
analyze, as far as I was able, the noble nature and power of
grotesque conception; I am not sorry occasionally to refer the
reader to that work, the fact being that it and this are parts of
one whole, divided merely as I had occasion to follow out one or
other of its branches; for I have always considered architecture as
an essential part of landscape; and I think the study of its best
styles and real meaning one of the necessary functions of the
landscape-painter; as, in like manner, the architect cannot be a
master-workman until all his designs are guided by understanding of
the wilder beauty of pure nature. But, be this as it may, the
discussion of the grotesque element belonged most properly to the
essay on architecture, in which that element must always find its
fullest development.

§ 2. The Grotesque is in that chapter[30] divided principally into
three kinds:

(A). Art arising from healthful but irrational play of the
imagination in times of rest.

(B). Art arising from irregular and accidental contemplation of
terrible things; or evil in general.

(C). Art arising from the confusion of the imagination by the
presence of truths which it cannot wholly grasp.

It is the central form of this art, arising from contemplation of
evil, which forms the link of connection between it and the
sensualist ideals, as pointed out above in the second paragraph of
the sixth chapter, the fact being that the imagination, when at
play, is curiously like bad children, and likes to play with fire;
in its entirely serious moods it dwells by preference on beautiful
and sacred images, but in its mocking or playful moods it is apt to
jest, sometimes bitterly, with undercurrent of sternest pathos,
sometimes waywardly, sometimes slightly and wickedly, with death and
sin; hence an enormous mass of grotesque art, some most noble and
useful, as Holbein's Dance of Death, and Albert Durer's Knight and
Death,[31] going down gradually through various conditions of less
and less seriousness into an art whose only end is that of mere
excitement, or amusement by terror, like a child making mouths at
another, more or less redeemed by the degree of wit or fancy in the
grimace it makes, as in the demons of Teniers and such others; and,
lower still, in the demonology of the stage.

§ 3. The form arising from an entirely healthful and open play of
the imagination, as in Shakspere's Ariel and Titania, and in Scott's
White Lady, is comparatively rare. It hardly ever is free from some
slight taint of the inclination to evil; still more rarely is it,
when so free, natural to the mind; for the moment we begin to
contemplate sinless beauty we are apt to get serious; and moral
fairy tales, and such other innocent work, are hardly ever truly,
that is to say, naturally imaginative; but for the most part
laborious inductions and compositions. The moment any real vitality
enters them, they are nearly sure to become satirical, or slightly
gloomy, and so connect themselves with the evil-enjoying branch.

§ 4. The third form of the Grotesque is a thoroughly noble one. It
is that which arises out of the use or fancy of tangible signs to
set forth an otherwise less expressible truth; including nearly the
whole range of symbolical and allegorical art and poetry. Its
nobleness has been sufficiently insisted upon in the place before
referred to. (Chapter on Grotesque Renaissance, §§ LXIII. LXIV. &c.)
Of its practical use, especially in painting, deeply despised among
us, because grossly misunderstood, a few words must be added here.

A fine grotesque is the expression, in a moment, by a series of
symbols thrown together in bold and fearless connection, of truths
which it would have taken a long time to express in any verbal way,
and of which the connection is left for the beholder to work out
for himself; the gaps, left or overleaped by the haste of the
imagination, forming the grotesque character.

§ 5. For instance, Spenser desires to tell us, (1.) that envy is the
most untamable and unappeasable of the passions, not to be soothed
by any kindness; (2.) that with continual labor it invents evil
thoughts out of its own heart; (3.) that even in this, its power of
doing harm is partly hindered by the decaying and corrupting nature
of the evil it lives in; (4.) that it looks every way, and that
whatever it sees is altered and discolored by its own nature; (5.)
which discoloring, however, is to it a veil, or disgraceful dress,
in the sight of others; (6.) and that it never is free from the most
bitter suffering, (7.) which cramps all its acts and movements,
enfolding and crushing it while it torments. All this it has
required a somewhat long and languid sentence for me to say in
unsymbolical terms,--not, by the way, that they _are_ unsymbolical
altogether, for I have been forced, whether I would or not, to use
_some_ figurative words; but even with this help the sentence is
long and tiresome, and does not with any vigor represent the truth.
It would take some prolonged enforcement of each sentence to make it
felt, in ordinary ways of talking. But Spenser puts it all into a
grotesque, and it is done shortly and at once, so that we feel it
fully, and see it, and never forget it. I have numbered above the
statements which had to be made. I now number them with the same
numbers, as they occur in the several pieces of the grotesque:--

              "And next to him malicious Envy rode
         (1.) Upon a ravenous wolfe, and (2. 3.) still did chaw
              Between his cankred[32] teeth a venemous tode
              That all the poison ran about his jaw.
      (4. 5.) All in a kirtle of discolourd say
              He clothed was, y-paynted full of eies;
         (6.) And in his bosome secretly there lay
              An hatefull snake, the which his tail uptyes
         (7.) In many folds, and mortall sting implyes."

There is the whole thing in nine lines; or, rather, in one image,
which will hardly occupy any room at all on the mind's shelves, but
can be lifted out, whole, whenever we want it. All noble grotesques
are concentrations of this kind, and the noblest convey truths
which nothing else could convey; and not only so, but convey them,
in minor cases with a delightfulness,--in the higher instances with
an awfulness,--which no mere utterance of the symbolised truth would
have possessed, but which belongs to the effort of the mind to
unweave the riddle, or to the sense it has of there being an
infinite power and meaning in the thing seen, beyond all that is
apparent therein, giving the highest sublimity even to the most
trivial object so presented and so contemplated.

      "'Jeremiah, what seest thou?'
      'I see a seething pot, and the face thereof is toward the north,
      'Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the
         inhabitants of the land.'"

And thus in all ages and among all nations, grotesque idealism has
been the element through which the most appalling and eventful truth
has been wisely conveyed, from the most sublime words of true
Revelation, to the [Greek: "all' hot' an Hêmionos basileus,"] &c., of
the oracles, and the more or less doubtful teaching of dreams; and so
down to ordinary poetry. No element of imagination has a wider range,
a more magnificent use, or so colossal a grasp of sacred truth.

§ 6. How, then, is this noble power best to be employed in the art
of painting?

We hear it not unfrequently asserted that symbolism or
personification should not be introduced in painting at all. Such
assertions are in their grounds unintelligible, and in their
substance absurd. Whatever is in words described as visible, may
with all logical fitness[33] be rendered so by colors, and not only
is this a legitimate branch of ideal art, but I believe there is
hardly any other so widely useful and instructive; and I heartily
wish that every great allegory which the poets ever invented were
powerfully put on canvas, and easily accessible by all men, and that
our artists were perpetually exciting themselves to invent more. And
as far as authority bears on the question, the simple fact is that
allegorical painting has been the delight of the greatest men and of
the wisest multitudes, from the beginning of art, and will be till
art expires. Orcagua's Triumph of Death; Simon Memmi's frescoes in
the Spanish Chapel; Giotto's principal works at Assisi, and partly
at the Arena; Michael Angelo's two best statues, the Night and Day;
Albert Durer's noble Melancholy, and hundreds more of his best
works; a full third, I should think, of the works of Tintoret and
Veronese, and nearly as large a portion of those of Raphael and
Rubens, are entirely symbolical or personifiant; and, except in the
case of the last-named painter, are always among the most
interesting works the painters executed. The greater and more
thoughtful the artists, the more they delight in symbolism, and the
more fearlessly they employ it. Dead symbolism, second-hand
symbolism, pointless symbolism, are indeed objectionable enough; but
so are most other things that are dead, second-hand, and pointless.
It is also true that both symbolism and personification are somewhat
more apt than most things to have their edges taken off by too much
handling; and what with our modern Fames, Justices, and various
metaphorical ideals, largely used for signs and other such purposes,
there is some excuse for our not well knowing what the real power of
personification is. But that power is gigantic and inexhaustible,
and ever to be grasped with peculiar joy by the painter, because it
permits him to introduce picturesque elements and flights of fancy
into his work, which otherwise would be utterly inadmissible; to
bring the wild beasts of the desert into the room of state, fill the
air with inhabitants as well as the earth, and render the least
(visibly) interesting incidents themes for the most thrilling drama.
Even Tintoret might sometimes have been hard put to it, when he had
to fill a large panel in the Ducal Palace with the portrait of a
nowise interesting Doge, unless he had been able to lay a winged
lion beside him, ten feet long from the nose to the tail, asleep
upon the Turkey carpet; and Rubens could certainly have made his
flatteries of Mary of Medicis palatable to no one but herself,
without the help of rosy-cheeked goddesses of abundance, and
seven-headed hydras of rebellion.

§ 7. For observe, not only does the introduction of these imaginary
beings permit greater fantasticism of _incident_, but also infinite
fantasticism of _treatment_; and, I believe, so far from the pursuit
of the false ideal having in any wise exhausted the realms of
fantastic imagination, those realms have hardly yet been entered, and
that a universe of noble dream-land lies before us, yet to be
conquered. For, hitherto, when fantastic creatures have been
introduced, either the masters have been so realistic in temper that
they made the spirits as substantial as their figures of flesh and
blood,--as Rubens, and, for the most part, Tintoret; or else they have
been weak and unpractised in realization, and have painted transparent
or cloudy spirits because they had no power of painting grand ones.
But if a really great painter, thoroughly capable of giving
substantial truth, and master of the elements of pictorial effect
which have been developed by modern art, would solemnly, and yet
fearlessly, cast his fancy free in the spiritual world, and faithfully
follow out such masters of that world as Dante and Spenser, there
seems no limit to the splendor of thought which painting might
express. Consider, for instance, how the ordinary personifications of
Charity oscillate between the mere nurse of many children, of
Reynolds, and the somewhat painfully conceived figure with flames
issuing from the heart, of Giotto; and how much more significance
might be given to the representation of Love, by amplifying with
tenderness the thought of Dante, "Tanta rossa, che a pena fora dentro
al foco nota,"[34] that is to say, by representing the loveliness of
her face and form as all flushed with glow of crimson light, and, as
she descended through heaven, all its clouds colored by her presence
as they are by sunset. In the hands of a feeble painter, such an
attempt would end in mere caricature; but suppose it taken up by
Correggio, adding to his power of flesh-painting the (not
inconsistent) feeling of Angelico in design, and a portion of Turner's
knowledge of the clouds. There is nothing impossible in such a
conjunction as this. Correggio, trained in another school, might have
even himself shown some such extent of grasp; and in Turner's picture
of the dragon of the Hesperides, Jason, vignette to Voyage of Columbus
("Slowly along the evening sky they went"), and such others, as well
as in many of the works of Watts and Rosetti, is already visible, as I
trust, the dawn of a new era of art, in a true unison of the grotesque
with the realistic power.

§ 8. There is, however, unquestionably, a severe limit, in the case
of all inferior masters, to the degree in which they may venture to
realize grotesque conception, and partly, also, a limit in the
nature of the thing itself, there being many grotesque ideas which
may be with safety suggested dimly by words or slight lines, but
which will hardly bear being painted into perfect definiteness. It
is very difficult, in reasoning on this matter, to divest ourselves
of the prejudices which have been forced upon us by the base
grotesque of men like Bronzino, who, having no true imagination, are
apt, more than others, to try by startling realism to enforce the
monstrosity that has no terror in itself. But it is nevertheless
true, that, unless in the hands of the very greatest men, the
grotesque seems better to be expressed merely in line, or light and
shade, or mere abstract color, so as to mark it for a thought rather
than a substantial fact. Even if Albert Durer had perfectly painted
his Knight and Death, I question if we should feel it so great a
thought as we do in the dark engraving. Blake, perfectly powerful in
the etched grotesque of the book of Job, fails always more or less
as soon as he adds color; not merely for want of power (his eye for
color being naturally good), but because his subjects seem, in a
sort, insusceptible of completion; and the two inexpressibly noble
and pathetic woodcut grotesques of Alfred Rethel's, Death the
Avenger, and Death the Friend, could not, I think, but with
disadvantage, be advanced into pictorial color.

And what is thus doubtfully true of the pathetic grotesque, is
assuredly and always true of the jesting grotesque. So far as it
expresses any transient flash of wit or satire, the less labor of
line, or color, given to its expression the better; elaborate
jesting being always intensely painful.

§ 9. For these several reasons, it seems not only permissible, but
even desirable, that the art by which the grotesque is expressed
should be more or less imperfect, and this seems a most beneficial
ordinance as respects the human race in general. For the grotesque
being not only a most forceful instrument of teaching, but a most
natural manner of expression, springing as it does at once from any
tendency to playfulness in minds highly comprehensive of truth; and
being also one of the readiest ways in which such satire or wit as
may be possessed by men of any inferior rank of mind can be for
perpetuity expressed, it becomes on all grounds desirable that what
is suggested in times of play should be rightly sayable without
toil; and what occurs to men of inferior power or knowledge, sayable
without any high degree of skill. Hence it is an infinite good to
mankind when there is full acceptance of the grotesque, slightly
sketched or expressed; and, if field for such expression be frankly
granted, an enormous mass of intellectual power is turned to
everlasting use, which, in this present century of ours, evaporates
in street gibing or vain revelling; all the good wit and satire
expiring in daily talk, (like foam on wine,) which in the thirteenth
and fourteenth centuries had a permitted and useful expression in
the arts of sculpture and illumination, like foam fixed into
chalcedony. It is with a view (not the least important among many
others bearing upon art) to the reopening of this great field of
human intelligence, long entirely closed, that I am striving to
introduce Gothic architecture into daily domestic use; and to revive
the art of illumination, properly so called; not the art of
miniature-painting in books, or on vellum, which has ridiculously
been confused with it; but of making _writing_, simple writing,
beautiful to the eye, by investing it with the great chord of
perfect color, blue, purple, scarlet, white, and gold, and in that
chord of color, permitting the continual play of the fancy of the
writer in every species of grotesque imagination, carefully
excluding shadow; the distinctive difference between illumination
and painting proper, being, that illumination admits _no_ shadows,
but only gradations of pure color. And it is in this respect that
illumination is specially fitted for grotesque expression; for, when
I used the term "_pictorial_ color," just now, in speaking of the
completion of the grotesque of Death the Avenger, I meant to
distinguish such color from the abstract, shadeless hues which are
eminently fitted for grotesque thought. The requirement, respecting
the slighter grotesque, is only that it shall be _incompletely_
expressed. It may have light and shade without color (as in etching
and sculpture), or color without light and shade (illumination), but
must not, except in the hands of the greatest masters, have both.
And for some conditions of the playful grotesque, the abstract
color is a much more delightful element of expression than the
abstract light and shade.

§ 10. Such being the manifold and precious uses of the true
grotesque, it only remains for us to note carefully how it is to be
distinguished from the false and vicious grotesque which results
from idleness, instead of noble rest; from malice, instead of the
solemn contemplation of necessary evil; and from general degradation
of the human spirit, instead of its subjection, or confusion, by
thoughts too high for it. It is easy for the reader to conceive how
different the fruits of two such different states of mind _must_ be;
and yet how like in many respects, and apt to be mistaken, one for
the other;--how the jest which springs from mere fatuity, and vacant
want of penetration or purpose, is everlastingly, infinitely,
separated from, and yet may sometimes be mistaken for, the bright,
playful, fond, far-sighted jest of Plato, or the bitter, purposeful,
sorrowing jest of Aristophanes; how, again, the horror which springs
from guilty love of foulness and sin, may be often mistaken for the
inevitable horror which a great mind must sometimes feel in the full
and penetrative sense of their presence;--how, finally, the vague
and foolish inconsistencies of undisciplined dream or reverie may be
mistaken for the compelled inconsistencies of thoughts too great to
be well sustained, or clearly uttered. It is easy, I say, to
understand what a difference there must indeed be between these; and
yet how difficult it may be always to define it, or lay down laws
for the discovery of it, except by the just instinct of minds set
habitually in all things to discern right from wrong.

§ 11. Nevertheless, one good and characteristic instance may be of
service in marking the leading directions in which the contrast is
discernible. On the opposite page, Plate I., I have put, beside each
other, a piece of true grotesque, from the Lombard-Gothic, and of
false grotesque from classical (Roman) architecture. They are both
griffins; the one on the left carries on his back one of the main
pillars of the porch of the cathedral of Verona; the one on the
right is on the frieze of the temple of Antoninus and Faustina at
Rome, much celebrated by Renaissance and bad modern architects.

In some respects, however, this classical griffin deserves its
reputation. It is exceedingly fine in lines of composition, and, I
believe (I have not examined the original closely), very exquisite
in execution. For these reasons, it is all the better for our
purpose. I do not want to compare the worst false grotesque with the
best true, but rather, on the contrary, the best false with the
simplest true, in order to see how the delicately wrought lie fails
in the presence of the rough truth; for rough truth in the present
case it is, the Lombard sculpture being altogether untoward and
imperfect in execution.[35]

§ 12. "Well, but," the reader says, "what do you mean by calling
_either_ of them true? There never were such beasts in the world as
either of these?"

No, never: but the difference is, that the Lombard workman did
really see a griffin in his imagination, and carved it from the
life, meaning to declare to all ages that he had verily seen with
his immortal eyes such a griffin as that; but the classical workman
never saw a griffin at all, nor anything else; but put the whole
thing together by line and rule.

§ 13. "How do you know that?"

Very easily. Look at the two, and think over them. You know a
griffin is a beast composed of lion and eagle. The classical workman
set himself to fit these together in the most ornamental way
possible. He accordingly carves a sufficiently satisfactory lion's
body, then attaches very gracefully cut wings to the sides: then,
because he cannot get the eagle's head on the broad lion's
shoulders, fits the two together by something like a horse's neck
(some griffins being wholly composed of a horse and eagle), then,
finding the horse's neck look weak and unformidable, he strengthens
it by a series of bosses, like vertebrae, in front, and by a series
of spiny cusps, instead of a mane, on the ridge; next, not to lose
the whole leonine character about the neck, he gives a remnant of
the lion's beard, turned into a sort of griffin's whisker, and
nicely curled and pointed; then an eye, probably meant to look grand
and abstracted, and therefore neither lion's nor eagle's; and,
finally, an eagle's beak, very sufficiently studied from a real
one. The whole head being, it seems to him, still somewhat wanting
in weight and power, he brings forward the right wing behind it, so
as to enclose it with a broad line. This is the finest thing in the
composition, and very masterly, both in thought, and in choice of
the exactly right point where the lines of wing and beak should
intersect (and it may be noticed in passing, that all men, who can
compose at all, have this habit of encompassing or governing broken
lines with broad ones, wherever it is possible, of which we shall
see many instances hereafter). The whole griffin, thus gracefully
composed, being, nevertheless, when all is done, a very composed
griffin, is set to very quiet work, and raising his left foot, to
balance his right wing, sets it on the tendril of a flower so
lightly as not even to bend it down, though, in order to reach it,
his left leg is made half as long again as his right.

§ 14. We may be pretty sure, if the carver had ever seen a griffin,
he would have reported of him as doing something else than _that_
with his feet. Let us see what the Lombardic workman saw him doing.

Remember, first, the griffin, though part lion and part eagle, has
the united _power of both_. He is not merely a bit of lion and a bit
of eagle, but whole lion, incorporate with whole eagle. So when we
really see one, we may be quite sure we shall not find him wanting
in anything necessary to the might either of beast or bird.

Well, among things essential to the might of a lion, perhaps, on the
whole, the most essential are his _teeth_. He could get on pretty
well even without his claws, usually striking his prey down with a
blow, woundless; but he could by no means get on without his teeth.
Accordingly, we see that the real or Lombardic griffin has the
carnivorous teeth bare to the root, and the peculiar hanging of the
jaw at the back, which marks the flexible and gaping mouth of the
devouring tribes.

Again; among things essential to the might of an eagle, next to his
wings (which are of course prominent in both examples), are his
_claws_. It is no use his being able to tear anything with his beak,
if he cannot first hold it in his claws; he has comparatively no
leonine power of striking with his feet, but a magnificent power of
grip with them. Accordingly, we see that the real griffin, while his
feet are heavy enough to strike like a lion's, has them also
extended far enough to give them the eagle's grip with the back
claw; and has, moreover, some of the bird-like wrinkled skin over
the whole foot, marking this binding power the more; and that he has
besides verily got something to hold with his feet, other than a
flower, of which more presently.

§ 15. Now observe, the Lombardic workman did not do all this because
he had thought it out, as you and I are doing together; he never
thought a bit about it. He simply saw the beast; saw it as plainly
as you see the writing on this page, and of course could not be
wrong in anything he told us of it.

Well, what more does he tell us? Another thing, remember, essential
to an eagle is that it should fly _fast_. It is no use its having
wings at all if it is to be impeded in the use of them. Now it would
be difficult to impede him more thoroughly than by giving him two
cocked ears to catch the wind.

Look, again, at the two beasts. You see the false griffin _has_ them
so set, and, consequently, as he flew, there would be a continual
humming of the wind on each side of his head, and he would have an
infallible earache when he got home. But the real griffin has his
ears flat to his head, and all the hair of them blown back, even to
a point, by his fast flying, and the aperture is downwards, that he
may hear anything going on upon the earth, where his prey is. In the
false griffin the aperture is upwards.

§ 16. Well, what more? As he is made up of the natures of lion and
eagle, we may be very certain that a real griffin is, on the whole,
fond of eating, and that his throat will look as if he occasionally
took rather large pieces, besides being flexible enough to let him
bend and stretch his head in every direction as he flies.

Look, again, at the two beasts. You see the false one has got those
bosses upon his neck like vertebrae, which must be infinitely in his
way when he is swallowing, and which are evidently inseparable, so
that he cannot _stretch_ his neck any more than a horse. But the
real griffin is all loose about the neck, evidently being able to
make it almost as much longer as he likes; to stretch and bend it
anywhere, and swallow anything, besides having some of the grand
strength of the bull's dewlap in it when at rest.

§ 17. What more? Having both lion and eagle in him, it is probable
that the real griffin will have an infinite look of repose as well
as power of activity. One of the notablest things about a lion is
his magnificent _indolence_, his look of utter disdain of trouble
when there is no occasion for it; as, also, one of the notablest
things about an eagle is his look of inevitable vigilance, even when
quietest. Look, again, at the two beasts. You see the false griffin
is quite sleepy and dead in the eye, thus contradicting his eagle's
nature, but is putting himself to a great deal of unnecessary
trouble with his paws, holding one in a most painful position merely
to touch a flower, and bearing the whole weight of his body on the
other, thus contradicting his lion's nature.

But the real griffin is primarily, with his eagle's nature, wide
awake; evidently quite ready for whatever may happen; and with his
lion's nature, laid all his length on his belly, prone and
ponderous; his two paws as simply put out before him as a drowsy
puppy's on a drawingroom hearth-rug; not but that he has got
something to do with them, worthy of such paws; but he takes not one
whit more trouble about it than is absolutely necessary. He has
merely got a poisonous winged dragon to hold, and for such a little
matter as that, he may as well do it lying down and at his ease,
looking out at the same time for any other piece of work in his way.
He takes the dragon by the middle, one paw under the wing, another
above, gathers him up into a knot, puts two or three of his claws
well into his back, crashing through the scales of it and wrinkling
all the flesh up from the wound, flattens him down against the
ground, and so lets him do what he likes. The dragon tries to bite
him, but can only bring his head round far enough to get hold of his
own wing, which he bites in agony instead; flapping the griffin's
dewlap with it, and wriggling his tail up against the griffin's
throat; the griffin being, as to these minor proceedings, entirely
indifferent, sure that the dragon's body cannot drag itself one
hair's breadth off those ghastly claws, and that its head can do no
harm but to itself.

§ 18. Now observe how in all this, through every separate part and
action of the creature, the imagination is _always_ right. It
evidently _cannot_ err; it meets every one of our requirements
respecting the griffin as simply as if it were gathering up the
bones of the real creature out of some ancient rock. It does not
itself know or care, any more than the peasant laboring with his
spade and axe, what is wanted to meet our theories or fancies. It
knows simply what is there, and brings out the positive creature,
errorless, unquestionable. So it is throughout art, and in all that
the imagination does; if anything be wrong it is not the
imagination's fault, but some inferior faculty's, which would have
its foolish say in the matter, and meddled with the imagination, and
said, the bones ought to be put together tail first, or upside down.

§ 19. This, however, we need not be amazed at, because the very
essence of the imagination is already defined to be the seeing to
the heart; and it is not therefore wonderful that it should never
err; but it is wonderful, on the other hand, how the composing
legalism does _nothing else_ than err. One would have thought that,
by mere chance, in this or the other element of griffin, the
griffin-composer might have struck out a truth; that he might have
had the luck to set the ears back, or to give some grasp to the
claw. But, no; from beginning to end it is evidently impossible for
him to be anything but wrong; his whole soul is instinct with lies;
no veracity can come within hail of him; to him, all regions of
right and life are for ever closed.

§ 20. And another notable point is, that while the imagination
receives truth in this simple way, it is all the while receiving
statutes of composition also, far more noble than those for the sake
of which the truth was lost by the legalist. The ornamental lines in
the classical griffin appear at first finer than in the other; but
they only appear so because they are more commonplace and more
palpable. The subtlety of the sweeping and rolling curves in the
real griffin, the way they waver and change and fold, down the neck,
and along the wing, and in and out among the serpent coils, is
incomparably grander, merely as grouping of ornamental line, than
anything in the other; nor is it fine as ornamental only, but as
massively useful, giving weight of stone enough to answer the
entire purpose of pedestal sculpture. Note, especially, the
insertion of the three plumes of the dragon's broken wing in the
outer angle, just under the large coil of his body; this filling of
the gap being one of the necessities, not of the pedestal block
merely, but a means of getting mass and breadth, which all composers
desire more or less, but which they seldom so perfectly accomplish.

So that taking the truth first, the honest imagination gains
everything; it has its griffinism, and grace, and usefulness, all at
once: but the false composer, caring for nothing but himself and his
rules, loses everything,--griffinism, grace, and all.

§ 21. I believe the reader will now sufficiently see how the terms
"true" and "false" are in the most accurate sense attachable to the
opposite branches of what might appear at first, in both cases, the
merest wildness of inconsistent reverie. But they are even to be
attached, in a deeper sense than that in which we have hitherto used
them, to these two compositions. For the imagination hardly ever
works in this intense way, unencumbered by the inferior faculties,
unless it be under the influence of some solemn purpose or
sentiment. And to all the falseness and all the verity of these two
ideal creatures this farther falsehood and verity have yet to be
added, that the classical griffin has, at least in this place, no
other intent than that of covering a level surface with entertaining
form; but the Lombardic griffin is a profound expression of the most
passionate symbolism. Under its eagle's wings are two wheels,[36]
which mark it as connected, in the mind of him who wrought it, with
the living creatures of the vision of Ezekiel: "When they went, the
wheels went by them, and whithersoever the spirit was to go, they
went, and the wheels were lifted up over against them, for the
spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels." Thus signed, the
winged shape becomes at once one of the acknowledged symbols of the
Divine power; and, in its unity of lion and eagle, the workman of
the middle ages always means to set forth the unity of the human and
divine natures,[37] In this unity it bears up the pillars of the
Church, set for ever as the corner stone. And the faithful and
true imagination beholds it, in this unity, with everlasting
vigilance and calm omnipotence, restrain the seed of the serpent
crushed upon the earth; leaving the head of it free, only for a
time, that it may inflict in its fury profounder destruction upon
itself,--in this also full of deep meaning. The Divine power does
not slay the evil creature. It wounds and restrains it only. Its
final and _deadly_ wound is inflicted by itself.

[Illustration: 1. True and False Griffins. Mediæval. Classical.]

  [30] On the Grotesque Renaissance, vol. iii.

  [31] See Appendix I. Vol. IV. "Modern Grotesque."

  [32] Cankred--because he cannot then bite hard.

  [33] Though, perhaps, only in a subordinate degree. See farther
       on, § 8.

  [34] "So red, that in the midst of the fire she could hardly have
       been seen."

  [35] If there be any inaccuracy in the right-hand griffin, I am
       sorry, but am not answerable for it, as the plate has been
       faithfully reduced from a large French lithograph, the best I
       could find. The other is from a sketch of my own.

  [36] At the extremities of the wings,--not seen in the plate.

  [37] Compare the Purgatorio, canto xxix. &c.



§ 1. I am afraid the reader must be, by this time, almost tired of
hearing about truth. But I cannot help this; the more I have
examined the various forms of art, and exercised myself in receiving
their differently intended impressions, the more I have found this
truthfulness a final test, the only test of lasting power; and,
although our concern in this part of our inquiry is, professedly,
with the beauty which blossoms out of truth, still I find myself
compelled always to gather it by the stalk, not by the petals. I
cannot hold the beauty, nor be sure of it for a moment, but by
feeling for that strong stem.

We have, in the preceding chapters, glanced through the various
operations of the imaginative power of man; with this almost
painfully monotonous result, that its greatness and honor were
always simply in proportion to the quantity of truth it grasped. And
now the question, left undetermined some hundred pages back (Chap.
II. § 6), recurs to us in a simpler form than it could before. How
far is this true imagination to be truly represented? How far should
the perfect conception of Pallas be so given as to look like Pallas
herself, rather than like the picture of Pallas?

§ 2. A question, this, at present of notable interest, and demanding
instant attention. For it seemed to us, in reasoning about Dante's
views of art, that he was, or might be, right in desiring realistic
completeness; and yet, in what we have just seen of the grotesque
ideal, it seemed there was a certain desirableness in incompleteness.
And the schools of art in Europe are, at this moment, set in two
hostile ranks,--not nobly hostile, but spitefully and scornfully,
having for one of the main grounds of their dispute the apparently
simple question, how far a picture may be carried forward in detail,
or how soon it may be considered as finished.

I propose, therefore, in the present chapter, to examine, as
thoroughly as I can, the real signification of this word, Finish, as
applied to art, and to see if in this, as in other matters, our
almost tiresome test is not the only right one; whether there be not
a _fallacious_ finish and a _faithful_ finish, and whether the
dispute, which seems to be only about completion and incompletion,
has not therefore, at the bottom of it, the old and deep grounds of
fallacy and fidelity.

§ 3. Observe, first, there are two great and separate senses in
which we call a thing finished, or well finished. One, which refers
to the mere neatness and completeness of the actual work, as we
speak of a well-finished knife-handle or ivory toy (as opposed to
ill-cut ones); and, secondly, a sense which refers to the effect
produced by the thing done, as we call a picture well-finished if it
is so full in its details, as to produce the effect of reality on
the spectator. And, in England, we seem at present to value highly
the first sort of finish which belongs to work_manship_, in our
manufactures and general doings of any kind, but to despise totally
the impressive finish which belongs to the _work_; and therefore we
like smooth ivories better than rough ones,--but careless scrawls or
daubs better than the most complete paintings. Now, I believe that
we exactly reverse the fitness of judgment in this matter, and that
we ought, on the contrary, to despise the finish of work_manship_,
which is done for vanity's sake, and to love the finish of _work_,
which is done for truth's sake,--that we ought, in a word, to finish
our ivory toys more roughly, and our pictures more delicately.

Let us think over this matter.

§ 4. Perhaps one of the most remarkable points of difference between
the English and Continental nations is in the degree of finish given to
their ordinary work. It is enough to cross from Dover to Calais to feel
this difference; and to travel farther only increases the sense of it.
English windows for the most part fit their sashes, and their woodwork
is neatly planed and smoothed; French windows are larger, heavier, and
framed with wood that looks as if it had been cut to its shape with a
hatchet; they have curious and cumbrous fastenings, and can only be
forced asunder or together by some ingenuity and effort, and even then
not properly. So with everything else--French, Italian, and German,
and, as far as I know, Continental. Foreign drawers do not slide as
well as ours: foreign knives do not cut so well; foreign wheels do not
turn so well, and we commonly plume ourselves much upon this, believing
that generally the English people do their work better and more
thoroughly, or as they say, "turn it out of their hands in better
style," than foreigners. I do not know how far this is really the case.
There may be a flimsy neatness, as well as a substantial roughness; it
does not necessarily follow that the window which shuts easiest will
last the longest, or that the harness which glitters the most is
assuredly made of the toughest leather. I am afraid, that if this
peculiar character of finish in our workmanship ever arose from a
greater heartiness and thoroughness in our ways of doing things, it
does so only now in the case of our best manufacturers; and that a
great deal of the work done in England, however good in appearance, is
but treacherous and rotten in substance. Still, I think that there is
really in the English mind, for the most part, a stronger desire to do
things as well as they can be done, and less inclination to put up with
inferiorities or insufficiencies, than in general characterise the
temper of foreigners. There is in this conclusion no ground for
national vanity; for though the desire to do things as well as they can
be done at first appears like a virtue, it is certainly not so in all
its forms. On the contrary, it proceeds in nine cases out of ten more
from vanity than conscientiousness; and that, moreover, often a weak
vanity. I suppose that as much finish is displayed in the fittings of
the private carriages of our young rich men as in any other department
of English manufacture; and that our St. James's Street cabs, dogcarts,
and liveries are singularly perfect in their way. But the feeling with
which this perfection is insisted upon (however desirable as a sign of
energy of purpose) is not in itself a peculiarly amiable or noble
feeling; neither is it an ignoble disposition which would induce a
country gentleman to put up with certain deficiencies in the appearance
of his country-made carriage. It is true that such philosophy may
degenerate into negligence, and that much thought and long discussion
would be needed before we could determine satisfactorily the limiting
lines between virtuous contentment and faultful carelessness; but at
all events we have no right at once to pronounce ourselves the wisest
people because we like to do all things in the best way. There are many
little things which to do admirably is to waste both time and cost; and
the real question is not so much whether we have done a given thing as
well as possible, as whether we have turned a given quantity of labor
to the best account.

§ 5. Now, so far from the labor's being turned to good account which is
given to our English "finishing," I believe it to be usually
destructive of the best powers of our workmen's minds. For it is
evident, in the first place, that there is almost always a useful and a
useless finish; the hammering and welding which are necessary to
produce a sword plate of the best quality, are useful finishing; the
polishing of its surface, useless.[38] In nearly all work this
distinction will, more or less, take place between substantial finish
and apparent finish, or what may be briefly characterized as "Make" and
"Polish." And so far as finish is bestowed for purposes of "make," I
have nothing to say against it. Even the vanity which displays itself
in giving strength to our work is rather a virtue than a vice. But so
far as finish is bestowed for purposes of "polish," there is much to be
said against it; this first, and very strongly, that the qualities
aimed at in common finishing, namely, smoothness, delicacy, or
fineness, _cannot_ in reality _exist_, in a degree worth admiring, in
anything done by human hands. Our best finishing is but coarse and
blundering work after all We may smooth, and soften, and sharpen till
we are sick at heart; but take a good magnifying glass to our miracle
of skill, and the invisible edge is a jagged saw, and the silky thread
a rugged cable, and the soft surface a granite desert. Let all the
ingenuity and all the art of the human race be brought to bear upon the
attainment of the utmost possible finish, and they could not do what is
done in the foot of a fly, or the film of a bubble. God alone can
finish; and the more intelligent the human mind becomes, the more the
infiniteness of interval is felt between human and divine work in this
respect. So then it is not a little absurd to weary ourselves in
struggling towards a point which we never can reach, and to exhaust our
strength in vain endeavors to produce qualities which exist inimitably
and inexhaustibly in the commonest things around us.

§ 6. But more than this: the fact is that in multitudes of instances,
instead of gaining greater fineness of finish by our work, we are only
destroying the fine finish of nature, and substituting coarseness and
imperfection. For instance, when a rock of any kind has lain for some
time exposed to the weather, Nature finishes it in her own way; first,
she takes wonderful pains about its forms, sculpturing it into
exquisite variety of dint and dimple, and rounding or hollowing it
into contours, which for fineness no human hand can follow; then she
colors it; and every one of her touches of color, instead of being a
powder mixed with oil, is a minute forest of living trees, glorious in
strength and beauty, and concealing wonders of structure, which in all
probability are mysteries even to the eyes of angels. Man comes and
digs up this finished and marvellous piece of work, which in his
ignorance he calls a "rough stone." He proceeds to finish it in _his_
fashion, that is, to split it in two, rend it into ragged blocks, and,
finally, to chisel its surface into a large number of lumps and knobs,
all equally shapeless, colorless, deathful, and frightful.[39] And the
block, thus disfigured, he calls "finished," and proceeds to build
therewith, and thinks himself great, forsooth, and an intelligent
animal. Whereas, all that he has really done is, to destroy with utter
ravage a piece of divine art, which, under the laws appointed by the
Deity to regulate his work in this world, it must take good twenty
years to produce the like of again. This he has destroyed, and has
himself given in its place a piece of work which needs no more
intelligence to do than a pholas has, or a worm, or the spirit which
throughout the world has authority over rending, rottenness, and
decay. I do not say that stone must not be cut; it needs to be cut for
certain uses; only I say that the cutting it is not "finishing," but
_un_finishing it; and that so far as the mere fact of chiselling goes,
the stone is ruined by the human touch. It is with it as with the
stones of the Jewish altar: "If thou lift up thy tool upon it thou
hast polluted it." In like manner a tree is a finished thing. But a
plank, though ever so polished, is not. We need stones and planks, as
we need food; but we no more bestow an additional admirableness upon
stone in hewing it, or upon a tree in sawing it, than upon an animal
in killing it.

§ 7. Well, but it will be said, there is certainly a kind of finish in
stone-cutting, and in every other art, which is meritorious, and which
consists in smoothing and refining as much as possible. Yes, assuredly
there is a meritorious finish. First, as it has just been said, that
which fits a thing for its uses,--as a stone to lie well in its place,
or the cog of an engine wheel to play well on another; and, secondly,
a finish belonging properly to the arts; but _that_ finish does not
consist in smoothing or polishing, but in the _completeness of the
expression of ideas_. For in painting, there is precisely the same
difference between the ends proposed in finishing that there is in
manufacture. Some artists finish for the finish' sake; dot their
pictures all over, as in some kinds of miniature-painting (when a wash
of color would have produced as good an effect); or polish their
pictures all over, making the execution so delicate that the touch of
the brush cannot be seen, for the sake of the smoothness merely, and
of the credit they may thus get for great labor; which kind of
execution, seen in great perfection in many works of the Dutch school,
and in those of Carlo Dolce, is that polished "language" against which
I have spoken at length in various portions of the first volume; nor
is it possible to speak of it with too great severity or contempt,
where it has been made an ultimate end.

But other artists finish for the impression's sake, not to show
their skill, nor to produce a smooth piece of work, but that they
may, with each stroke, render clearer the expression of knowledge.
And this sort of finish is not, properly speaking, so much
_completing_ the picture as _adding_ to it. It is not that what is
painted is more delicately done, but that infinitely _more_ is
painted. This finish is always noble, and, like all other noblest
things, hardly ever understood or appreciated. I must here endeavor,
more especially with respect to the state of quarrel between the
schools of living painters, to illustrate it thoroughly.

§ 8. In sketching the outline, suppose of the trunk of a tree, as in
Plate 2. (opposite) fig. 1., it matters comparatively little whether
the outline be given with a bold, or delicate line, so long as it is
_outline only_. The work is not more "finished" in one case than in
the other; it is only prepared for being seen at a greater or less
distance. The real refinement or finish of the line depends, not on
its thinness, but on its truly following the contours of the tree,
which it conventionally represents; conventionally, I say, because
there is no such line round the tree, in reality; and it is set down
not as an _imit_ation, but a _limit_ation of the form. But if we are
to add shade to it as in fig. 2., the outline must instantly be made
proportionally delicate, not for the sake of delicacy as such, but
because the outline will now, in many parts, stand not for
limitation of form merely, but for a portion of the _shadow_ within
that form. Now, as a limitation it was true, but as a shadow it
would be false, for there is no line of black shadow at the edge of
the stem. It must, therefore, be made so delicate as not to detach
itself from the rest of the shadow where shadow exists, and only to
be seen in the light where limitation is still necessary.

Observe, then, the "finish" of fig. 2. as compared with fig. 1.
consists, not in its greater delicacy, but in the addition of a
truth (shadow), a removal, in a great degree, of a conventionalism
(outline). All true finish consists in one or other of these things.
Now, therefore, if we are to "finish" farther we must _know_ more or
_see_ more about the tree. And as the plurality of persons who draw
trees know nothing of them, and will not look at them, it results
necessarily that the effort to finish is not only vain, but
unfinishes--does mischief. In the lower part of the plate, figs. 3,
4, 5, and 6. are facsimiles of pieces of line engraving, meant to
represent trunks of trees; 3. and 4. are the commonly accredited
types of tree-drawing among engravers in the eighteenth century; 5.
and 6. are quite modern; 3. is from a large and important plate by
Boydell, from Claude's Molten Calf, dated 1781; 4. by Boydell in
1776, from Rubens's Waggoner; 5. from a bombastic engraving,
published about twenty years ago by Meulemeester of Brussels, from
Raphael's Moses at the Burning Bush; and 6. from the foreground
of Miller's Modern Italy, after Turner.[40]

[Illustration: 2. Drawing of Tree-Stems.]

All these represent, as far as the engraving goes, simply _nothing_.
They are not "finished" in any sense but this,--that the paper has
been covered with lines. 4. is the best, because, in the original work
of Rubens, the lines of the boughs, and their manner of insertion in
the trunk, have been so strongly marked, that no engraving could quite
efface them; and, inasmuch as it represents these facts in the boughs,
that piece of engraving is more finished than the other examples,
while its own networked texture is still false and absurd; for there
is no texture of this knitted-stocking-like description on boughs; and
if there were, it would not be seen in the shadow, but in the light.
Miller's is spirited, and looks lustrous, but has no resemblance to
the original bough of Turner's, which is pale, and does not glitter.
The Netherlands work is, on the whole, the worst; because, in its
ridiculous double lines, it adds affectation and conceit to its
incapacity. But in all these cases the engravers have worked in total
ignorance both of what is meant by "drawing," and of the form of a
tree, covering their paper with certain lines, which they have been
taught to plough in copper, as a husbandman ploughs in clay.

§ 9. In the next three examples we have instances of endeavors at
finish by the hands of artists themselves, marking three stages of
knowledge or insight, and three relative stages of finish. Fig. 7.
is Claude's (Liber Veritatis, No. 140., facsimile by Boydell). It
still displays an appalling ignorance of the forms of trees, but yet
is, in mode of execution, better--that is, more finished--than the
engravings, because not _altogether_ mechanical, and showing some
dim, far-away, blundering memory of a few facts in stems, such as
their variations of texture and roundness, and bits of young shoots
of leaves. 8. is Salvator's, facsimiled from part of his original
etching of the Finding of Oedipus. It displays considerable power
of handling--not mechanical, but free and firm, and is just so much
more finished than any of the others as it displays more
intelligence about the way in which boughs gather themselves out of
the stem, and about the varying character of their curves. Finally,
fig. 9. is good work. It is the root of the apple-tree in Albert
Durer's Adam and Eve, and fairly represents the wrinkles of the
bark, the smooth portions emergent beneath, and the general anatomy
of growth. All the lines used conduce to the representation of these
facts; and the work is therefore highly finished. It still, however,
leaves out, as not to be represented by such kind of lines, the more
delicate gradations of light and shade. I shall now "finish" a
little farther, in the next plate (3.), the mere _insertion of the
two boughs_ outlined in fig. 1. I do this simply by adding
assertions of more facts. First, I say that the whole trunk is dark,
as compared with the distant sky. Secondly, I say that it is rounded
by gradations of shadow, in the various forms shown. And, lastly, I
say that (this being a bit of old pine stripped by storm of its
bark) the wood is fissured in certain directions, showing its grain,
or _muscle_, seen in complicated contortions at the insertion of the
arm and elsewhere.

§ 10. Now this piece of work, though yet far from complete (we will
better it presently), is yet more finished than any of the others,
not because it is more delicate or more skilful, but simply because
it tells more truth, and admits fewer fallacies. That which conveys
most information, with least inaccuracy, is always the highest
finish; and the question whether we prefer art so finished, to art
unfinished, is not one of taste at all. It is simply a question
whether we like to know much or little; to see accurately or see
falsely; and those whose _taste_ in art (if they choose so to call
it) leads them to like blindness better than sight, and fallacy
better than fact, would do well to set themselves to some other
pursuit than that of art.

§ 11. In the above plate we have examined chiefly the grain and
surface of the boughs; we have not yet noticed the finish of their
curvature. If the reader will look back to the No. 7. (Plate 2.),
which, in this respect, is the worst of all the set, he will
immediately observe the exemplification it gives of Claude's principal
theory about trees; namely, that the boughs always parted from each
other, two at a time, in the manner of the prongs of an ill-made
table-fork. It may, perhaps, not be at once believed that this is
indeed Claude's theory respecting tree-structure, without some
farther examples of his practice. I have, therefore, assembled on the
next page, Plate 4., some of the most characteristic passages of
ramification in the Liber Veritatis; the plates themselves are
sufficiently cheap (as they should be) and accessible to nearly every
one, so that the accuracy of the facsimiles may be easily tested. I
have given in Appendix I. the numbers of the plates from which the
examples are taken, and it will be found that they have been rather
improved than libelled, only omitting, of course, the surrounding
leafage, in order to show accurately the branch-outlines, with which
alone we are at present concerned. And it would be difficult to bring
together a series more totally futile and foolish, more singularly
wrong (as the false griffin was), every way at once; they are stiff,
and yet have no strength; curved, and yet have no flexibility;
monotonous, and yet disorderly; unnatural, and yet uninventive. They
are, in fact, of that commonest kind of tree bough which a child or
beginner first draws experimentally; nay, I am well assured, that if
this set of branches had been drawn by a schoolboy, "out of his own
head," his master would hardly have cared to show them as signs of any
promise in him.

[Illustration: 3. Strength of Old Pine.]

[Illustration: 4. Ramification, according to Claude.]

§ 12. "Well, but do not the trunks of trees fork, and fork mostly
into two arms at a time?"

[Illustration: FIG. 2.]

Yes; but under as stern anatomical law as the limbs of an animal;
and those hooked junctions in Plate 4. are just as accurately
representative of the branching of wood as this (fig. 2.) is of a
neck and shoulders. We should object to such a representation of
shoulders, because we have some interest in, and knowledge of, human
form; we do not object to Claude's trees, because we have no
interest in, nor knowledge of, trees. And if it be still alleged
that such work is nevertheless enough to give any one an "idea" of a
tree, I answer that it never gave, nor ever will give, an idea of a
tree to any one who loves trees; and that, moreover, no idea,
whatever its pleasantness, is of the smallest value, which is not
founded on simple facts. What pleasantness may be in _wrong_ ideas
we do not here inquire; the only question for us has always been,
and must always be, What are the facts?

§ 13. And assuredly those boughs of Claude's are not facts: and
every one of their contours is, in the worst sense, unfinished,
without even the expectation or faint hope of possible refinement
ever coming into them. I do not mean to enter here into the
discussion of the characters of ramification; that must be in our
separate inquiry into tree-structure generally; but I will merely
give one piece of Turner's tree-drawing as an example of what
finished work really is, even in outline. In plate 5. opposite,
fig. 1. is the contour (stripped, like Claude's, of its foliage) of
one of the distant tree-stems in the drawing of Bolton Abbey. In
order to show its perfectness better by contrast with bad work (as
we have had, I imagine, enough of Claude), I will take a bit of
Constable; fig. 2. is the principal tree out of the engraving of the
Lock on the Stour (Leslie's Life of Constable). It differs from the
Claude outlines merely in being the kind of work which is produced
by an uninventive person dashing about idly, with a brush, instead
of drawing determinately wrong, with a pen: on the one hand worse
than Claude's, in being lazier; on the other a little better in
being more free, but, as representative of tree-form, of course
still wholly barbarous. It is worth while to turn back to the
description of the uninventive painter at work on a tree (Vol. II.
chapter on Imaginative Association, § 11), for this trunk of
Constable's is curiously illustrative of it. One can almost see him,
first bending it to the right; then, having gone long enough to the
right, turning to the left; then, having gone long enough to the
left, away to the right again; then dividing it; and "because there
is another tree in the picture with two long branches (in this case
there really is), he knows that this ought to have three or four,
which must undulate or go backwards and forwards," &c., &c.

§ 14. Then study the bit of Turner work: note first its quietness,
unattractiveness, apparent carelessness whether you look at it or
not; next note the subtle curvatures within the narrowest limits,
and, when it branches, the unexpected, out of the way things it
does, just what nobody could have thought of its doing; shooting out
like a letter Y, with a nearly straight branch, and then
correcting its stiffness with a zigzag behind, so that the boughs,
ugly individually, are beautiful in unison. (In what I have
hereafter to say about trees, I shall need to dwell much on this
character of _unexpectedness_. A bough is never drawn rightly if it
is not wayward, so that although, as just now said, quiet at first,
not caring to be looked at, the moment it is looked at, it seems
bent on astonishing you, and doing the last things you expect it to
do.) But our present purpose is only to note the _finish_ of the
Turner _curves_, which, though they seem straight and stiff at
first, are, when you look long, seen to be all tremulous,
perpetually wavering along every edge into endless melody of change.
This is finish in line, in exactly the same sense that a fine melody
is finished in the association of its notes.

[Illustration: 5. Good and Bad Tree-Drawing.]

§ 15. And now, farther, let us take a little bit of the Turnerian tree
in light and shade. I said above I would better the drawing of that
pine trunk, which, though it has incipient shade, and muscular action,
has no texture, nor local color. Now, I take about an inch and a half
of Turner's ash trunks (one of the nearer ones) in this same drawing
of Bolton Abbey (fig. 3. Plate 5.), and _this_ I cannot better; this
is perfectly finished; it is not possible to add more truth to it on
that scale. Texture of bark, anatomy of muscle beneath, reflected
lights in recessed hollows, stains of dark moss, and flickering
shadows from the foliage above, all are there, as clearly as the human
hand can mark them. I place a bit of trunk by Constable (fig. 5.),[41]
from another plate in Leslie's Life of him (a dell in Helmingham Park,
Suffolk), for the sake of the same comparison in shade that we have
above in contour. You see Constable does not know whether he is
drawing moss or shadow: those dark touches in the middle are confused
in his mind between the dark stains on the trunk and its dark side;
there is no anatomy, no cast shadow, nothing but idle sweeps of the
brush, vaguely circular. The thing is much darker than Turner's, but
it is not, therefore, finished; it is only blackened. And "to blacken"
is indeed the proper word for all attempts at finish without
knowledge. All true finish is _added fact_; and Turner's word for
finishing a picture was always this significant one, "carry forward."
But labor without added knowledge can only blacken or stain a picture,
it cannot finish it.

§ 16. And this is especially to be remembered as we pass from
comparatively large and distant objects, such as this single trunk, to
the more divided and nearer features of foreground. Some degree of
ignorance may be hidden, in completing what is far away; but there is
no concealment possible in close work, and darkening instead of
finishing becomes then the engraver's only possible resource. It has
always been a wonderful thing to me to hear people talk of making
foregrounds "vigorous," "marked," "forcible," and so on. If you will
lie down on your breast on the next bank you come to (which is
bringing it _close_ enough, I should think, to give it all the force
it is capable of), you will see, in the cluster of leaves and grass
close to your face, something as delicate as this, which I have
actually so drawn, on the opposite page, a mystery of soft shadow in
the depths of the grass, with indefinite forms of leaves, which you
cannot trace or count, within it, and out of that, the nearer leaves
coming in every subtle gradation of tender light and flickering form,
quite beyond all delicacy of pencilling to follow; and yet you will
rise up from that bank (certainly not making it appear coarser by
drawing a little back from it), and profess to represent it by a few
blots of "forcible" foreground color. "Well, but I cannot draw every
leaf that I see on the bank." No, for as we saw, at the beginning of
this chapter, that no human work could be finished so as to express
the _delicacy_ of nature, so neither can it be finished so as to
express the _redundance_ of nature. Accept that necessity; but do not
deny it; do not call your work finished, when you have, in engraving,
substituted a confusion of coarse black scratches, or in water-color a
few edgy blots, for ineffable organic beauty. Follow that beauty as
far as you can, remembering that just as far as you see, know, and
represent it, just so far your work is finished; as far as you fall
short of it, your work is _un_finished; and as far as you substitute
any other thing for it, your work is spoiled.

[Illustration: 6. Foreground Leafage.]

§ 17. How far Turner followed it, is not easily shown; for his
finish is so delicate as to be nearly uncopiable. I have just said
it was not possible to finish that ash trunk of his, farther, on
such a scale.[42] By using a magnifying-glass, and giving the same
help to the spectator, it might perhaps be possible to add and
exhibit a few more details; but even as it is, I cannot by line
engraving express all that there is in that piece of tree-trunk, on
the same scale. I _have_ therefore magnified the upper part of it in
fig 4. (Plate 5.), so that the reader may better see the beautiful
lines of curvature into which even its slightest shades and spots
are cast. Every quarter of an inch in Turner's drawings will bear
magnifying in the same way; much of the finer work in them can
hardly be traced, except by the keenest sight, until it is
magnified. In his painting of Ivy Bridge,[43] the veins are drawn on
the wings of a butterfly, not above three lines in diameter; and in
one of his smaller drawings of Scarborough, in my own possession,
the muscle-shells on the beach are rounded, and some shown as shut,
some as open, though none are as large as one of the letters of this
type; and yet this is the man who was thought to belong to the
"dashing" school, literally because most people had not patience or
delicacy of sight enough to trace his endless detail.

§ 18. "Suppose it was so," perhaps the reader replies; "still I do
not like detail so delicate that it can hardly be seen." Then you
like nothing in Nature (for you will find she always carries her
detail too far to be traced). This point, however, we shall examine
hereafter; it is not the question now whether we _like_ finish or
not; our only inquiry here is, what finish _means_; and I trust the
reader is beginning to be satisfied that it does indeed mean nothing
but consummate and accumulated truth, and that our old monotonous
test must still serve us here as elsewhere. And it will become us to
consider seriously why (if indeed it be so) we dislike this kind of
finish--dislike an accumulation of truth. For assuredly all
authority is against us, and _no truly great man can be named in the
arts--but it is that of one who finished to his utmost_. Take
Leonardo, Michael Angelo, and Raphael for a triad, to begin with.
_They_ all completed their detail with such subtlety of touch and
gradation, that, in a careful drawing by any of the three, you
cannot see where the pencil ceased to touch the paper; the stroke of
it is so tender, that, when you look close to the drawing you can
see nothing; you only see the effect of it a little way back! Thus
tender in execution,--and so complete in detail, that Leonardo must
needs draw _every several vein in the little agates_ and pebbles of
the gravel under the feet of the St. Anne in the Louvre. Take a
quartett after the triad--Titian, Tintoret, Bellini, and Veronese.
Examine the vine-leaves of the Bacchus and Ariadne, (Titian's) in
the National Gallery; examine the borage blossoms, painted petal by
petal, though lying loose on the table, in Titian's Supper at
Emmaus, in the Louvre, or the snail-shells on the ground in his
Entombment;[44] examine the separately designed patterns on every
drapery of Veronese, in his Marriage in Cana; go to Venice and see
how Tintoret paints the strips of black bark on the birch trunk that
sustains the platform in his Adoration of the Magi: how Bellini
fills the rents of his ruined walls with the most exquisite clusters
of the erba della Madonna.[45] You will find them all in a tale.
Take a quintett after the quartett--Francia, Angelico, Durer,
Hemling, Perugino,--and still the witness is one, still the same
striving in all to such utmost perfection as their knowledge and
hand could reach.

Who shall gainsay these men? Above all, who shall gainsay them when
they and Nature say precisely the same thing? For where does Nature
pause in _her_ finishing--that finishing which consists not in the
smoothing of surface, but the filling of space, and the
multiplication of life and thought?

Who shall gainsay them? I, for one, dare not; but accept their
teaching, with Nature's, in all humbleness.

"But is there, then, no good in any work which does not pretend to
perfectness? Is there no saving clause from this terrible
requirement of completion? And if there be none, what is the meaning
of all you have said elsewhere about rudeness as the glory of Gothic
work, and, even a few pages back, about the danger of finishing, for
our modern workmen?"

Indeed there are many saving clauses, and there is much good in
imperfect work. But we had better cast the consideration of these
drawbacks and exceptions into another chapter, and close this one,
without obscuring, in any wise, our broad conclusion that "finishing"
means in art simply "telling more truth;" and that whatever we have in
any sort begun wisely, it is good to finish thoroughly.

  [38] "With his Yemen sword for aid;
         Ornament it carried none,
       But the notches on the blade."

  [39] See the base of the new Army and Navy Clubhouse.

  [40] I take this example from Miller, because, on the whole, he is
       the best engraver of Turner whom we have.

  [41] Fig. 5. is not, however, so _lustrous_ as Constable's; I
       cannot help this, having given the original plate to my good
       friend Mr. Cousen, with strict charge to facsimile it
       faithfully: but the figure is all the fairer, as a
       representation of Constable's art, for those mezzotints in
       Leslie's life of him have many qualities of drawing which are
       quite wanting in Constable's blots of color. The comparison
       shall be made elaborately, between picture and picture, in
       the section on Vegetation.

  [42] It is of the exact size of the original, the whole drawing
       being about 15-1/2 inches by 11 in.

  [43] An oil painting (about 3 ft. by 4 ft. 6 in.), and very broad
       in its masses. In the possession of E. Bicknell, Esq.

  [44] These snail-shells are very notable, occurring as they do in,
       perhaps, the very grandest and broadest of all Titian's

  [45] Linaria Cymbalaria, the ivy-leaved toadflax of English



§ 1. I am afraid this will be a difficult chapter; one of drawbacks,
qualifications, and exceptions. But the more I see of useful truths,
the more I find that, like human beings, they are eminently biped;
and, although, as far as apprehended by human intelligence, they are
usually seen in a crane-like posture, standing on one leg, whenever
they are to be stated so as to maintain themselves against all
attack it is quite necessary they should stand on two, and have
their complete balance on opposite fulcra.

§ 2. I doubt not that one objection, with which as well as with
another we may begin, has struck the reader very forcibly, after
comparing the illustrations above given from Turner, Constable, and
Claude. He will wonder how it was that Turner, finishing in this
exquisite way, and giving truths by the thousand, where other
painters gave only one or two, yet, of all painters, seemed to
obtain least acknowledgeable resemblance to nature, so that the
world cried out upon him for a madman, at the moment when he was
giving exactly the highest and most consummate truth that had ever
been seen in landscape.

And he will wonder why still there seems reason for this outcry.
Still, after what analysis and proof of his being right have as yet
been given, the reader may perhaps be saying to himself: "All this
reasoning is of no use to me. Turner does _not_ give me the idea of
nature; I do not feel before one of his pictures as I should in the
real scene. Constable takes me out into the shower, and Claude into
the sun; and De Wint makes me feel as if I were walking in the
fields; but Turner keeps me in the house, and I know always that I
am looking at a picture."

I might answer to this; Well, what else _should_ he do? If you want
to feel as if you were in a shower, cannot you go and get wet without
help from Constable? If you want to feel as if you were walking in the
fields, cannot you go and walk in them without help from De Wint? But
if you want to sit in your room and look at a beautiful picture, why
should you blame the artist for giving you one? This _was_ the answer
actually made to me by various journalists, when first I showed that
Turner was truer than other painters: "Nay," said they, "we do not
want truth, we want something else than truth; we would not have
nature, but something better than nature."

§ 3. I do not mean to accept that answer, although it seems at this
moment to make for me: I have never accepted it. As I raise my eyes
from the paper, to think over the curious mingling in it, of direct
error, and far away truth, I see upon the room-walls, first,
Turner's drawing of the chain of the Alps from the Superga above
Turin; then a study of a block of gneiss at Chamouni, with the
purple Aiguilles-Rouges behind it; another, of the towers of the
Swiss Fribourg, with a cluster of pine forest behind them; then
another Turner, Isola Bella, with the blue opening of the St.
Gothard in the distance; and then a fair bit of thirteenth century
illumination, depicting, at the top of the page, the Salutation; and
beneath, the painter who painted it, sitting in his little convent
cell, with a legend above him to this effect--

      "ego jah{ann}es sc{ri}psi hunc librum."
             I, John, wrote this book.

None of these things are bad pieces of art; and yet,--if it were
offered to me to have, instead of them, so many windows, out of
which I should see, first, the real chain of the Alps from the
Superga; then the real block of gneiss, and Aiguilles-Rouges; then
the real towers of Fribourg, and pine forest; the real Isola Bella;
and, finally, the true Mary and Elizabeth; and beneath them, the
actual old monk at work in his cell,--I would very unhesitatingly
change my five pictures for the five windows; and so, I apprehend,
would most people, not, it seems to me, unwisely.

"Well, then," the reader goes on to question me, "the more closely
the picture resembles such a window the better it must be?"


"Then if Turner does not give me the impression of such a window,
that is of Nature, there must be something wrong in Turner?"


"And if Constable and De Wint give me the impression of such a
window, there must be something right in Constable and De Wint?"


"And something more right than in Turner?"


"Will you explain yourself?"

I _have_ explained myself, long ago, and that fully; perhaps too
fully for the simple sum of the explanation to be remembered. If the
reader will glance back to, and in the present state of our inquiry,
reconsider in the first volume, Part I. Sec. I. Chap. V., and Part
II. Sec. _I._ Chap. VII., he will find our present difficulties
anticipated. There are some truths, easily obtained, which give a
deceptive resemblance to Nature; others only to be obtained with
difficulty, which cause no deception, but give inner and deep
resemblance. These two classes of truths cannot be obtained
together; choice must be made between them. The bad painter gives
the cheap deceptive resemblance. The good painter gives the precious
non-deceptive resemblance. Constable perceives in a landscape that
the grass is wet, the meadows flat, and the boughs shady; that is to
say, about as much as, I suppose, might in general be apprehended,
between them, by an intelligent fawn and a skylark. Turner perceives
at a glance the whole sum of visible truth open to human
intelligence. So Berghem perceives nothing in a figure, beyond the
flashes of light on the folds of its dress; but Michael Angelo
perceives every flash of thought that is passing through its spirit;
and Constable and Berghem may imitate windows; Turner and Michael
Angelo can by no means imitate windows. But Turner and Michael
Angelo are nevertheless the best.

§ 4. "Well but," the reader persists, "you admitted just now that
because Turner did not get his work to look like a window there was
something wrong in him."

I did so; if he were quite right he would have _all_ truth, low as
well as high; that is, he would be Nature and not Turner; but that
is impossible to man. There is much that is wrong in him; much that
is infinitely wrong in all human effort. But, nevertheless, in some
an infinity of Betterness above other human effort.

"Well, but you said you would change your Turners for windows, why
not, therefore, for Constables?"

Nay, I did not say that I would change them for windows _merely_,
but for windows which commanded the chain of the Alps and Isola
Bella. That is to say, for all the truth that there is in Turner,
and all the truth besides which is not in him; but I would not
change them for Constables, to have a small piece of truth which is
not in Turner, and none of the mighty truth which there is.

§ 5. Thus far, then, though the subject is one requiring somewhat
lengthy explanation, it involves no real difficulty. There is not
the slightest inconsistency in the mode in which throughout this
work I have desired the relative merits of painters to be judged. I
have always said, he who is closest to Nature is best. All rules are
useless, all genius is useless, all labor is useless, if you do not
give facts; the more facts you give the greater you are; and there
is no fact so unimportant as to be prudently despised, if it be
possible to represent it. Nor, but that I have long known the truth
of Herbert's lines,

                                "Some men are
      Full of themselves, and answer their own notion,"

would it have been without intense surprise that I heard querulous
readers asking, "how it was possible" that I could praise
Pre-Raphaelitism and Turner also. For, from the beginning of this
book to this page of it, I have never praised Turner highly for any
other cause than that he _gave facts_ more _delicately_, more
Pre-Raphaelitically, than other men. Careless readers, who dashed at
the descriptions and missed the arguments, took up their own
conceptions of the cause of my liking Turner, and said to
themselves: "Turner cannot draw, Turner is generalizing, vague,
visionary; and the Pre-Raphaelites are hard and distinct. How can
any one like both?"[46] But _I_ never said that Turner could not
draw. _I_ never said that he was vague or visionary. What _I_ said
was, that nobody had ever drawn so well: that nobody was so certain,
so _un_-visionary; that nobody had ever given so many hard and
downright facts. Glance back to the first volume, and note the
expressions now. "He is the only painter who ever drew a mountain or
a stone;[47] the only painter who can draw the stem of a tree; the
only painter who has ever drawn the sky, previous artists having
only drawn it typically or partially, but he absolutely and
universally." Note how he is praised in his rock drawing for "not
selecting a pretty or interesting morsel here or there, but giving
the whole truth, with all the relations of its parts."[48] Observe
how the _great virtue_ of the landscape of Cima da Conegliano and
the early sacred painters is said to be giving "entire, exquisite,
humble, realization--a strawberry-plant in the foreground with a
blossom, _and a berry just set_, _and one half ripe, and one ripe_,
all patiently and innocently painted from the _real thing, and_
_therefore most divine_." Then re-read the following paragraph (§
10.), carefully, and note its conclusion, that the thoroughly great
men are those who have done everything thoroughly, and who have
never despised anything, however small, of God's making; with the
instance given of Wordsworth's daisy casting its shadow on a stone;
and the following sentence, "Our painters must come to this before
they have done their duty." And yet, when our painters _did_ come to
this, did do their duty, and did paint the daisy with its shadow
(this passage having been written years before Pre-Raphaelitism was
thought of), people wondered how I could possibly like what was
neither more nor less than the precise fulfilment of my own most
earnest exhortations and highest hopes.

§ 6. Thus far, then, all I have been saying is absolutely
consistent, and tending to one simple end. Turner is praised for his
truth and finish; that truth of which I am beginning to give
examples. Pre-Raphaelitism is praised for its truth and finish; and
the whole duty inculcated upon the artist is that of being in all
respects as like Nature as possible.

And yet this is not all I have to do. There is more than this to be
inculcated upon the student, more than this to be admitted or
established before the foundations of just judgment can be laid.

For, observe, although I believe any sensible person would exchange
his pictures, however good, for windows, he would not feel, and
ought not to feel, that the arrangement was _entirely_ gainful to
him. He would feel it was an exchange of a less good of one kind,
for a greater of another kind, but that it was definitely
_exchange_, not pure gain, not merely getting more truth instead of
less. The picture would be a serious loss; something gone which the
actual landscape could never restore, though it might give something
better in its place, as age may give to the heart something better
than its youthful delusion, but cannot give again the sweetness of
that delusion.

§ 7. What is this in the picture which is precious to us, and yet is
not natural? Hitherto our arguments have tended, on the whole,
somewhat to the depreciation of art; and the reader may every now and
then, so far as he has been convinced by them, have been inclined to
say, "Why not give up this whole science of Mockery at once, since
its only virtue is in representing facts, and it cannot, at best,
represent them completely, besides being liable to all manner of
shortcomings and dishonesties,--why not keep to the facts, to real
fields, and hills, and men, and let this dangerous painting alone?"

No, it would not be well to do this. Painting has its peculiar
virtues, not only consistent with but even resulting from, its
shortcomings and weaknesses. Let us see what these virtues are.

§ 8. I must ask permission, as I have sometimes done before, to
begin apparently a long way from the point.

Not long ago, as I was leaving one of the towns of Switzerland early
in the morning, I saw in the clouds behind the houses an Alp which I
did not know, a grander Alp than any I knew, nobler than the
Schreckhorn or the Mönch; terminated, as it seemed, on one side by a
precipice of almost unimaginable height; on the other, sloping away
for leagues in one field of lustrous ice, clear and fair and blue,
flashing here and there into silver under the morning sun. For a
moment I received a sensation of as much sublimity as any natural
object could possibly excite; the next moment, I saw that my unknown
Alp was the glass roof of one of the workshops of the town, rising
above its nearer houses, and rendered aerial and indistinct by some
pure blue wood smoke which rose from intervening chimneys.

It is evident, that so far as the mere delight of the eye was
concerned, the glass roof was here equal, or at least equal for a
moment, to the Alp. Whether the power of the object over the heart
was to be small or great, depended altogether upon what it was
understood for, upon its being taken possession of and apprehended
in its full nature, either as a granite mountain or a group of panes
of glass; and thus, always, the real majesty of the appearance of
the thing to us, depends upon the degree in which we ourselves
possess the power of understanding it,--that penetrating, possession
taking power of the imagination, which has been long ago defined[49]
as the very life of the man, considered as a _seeing_ creature. For
though the casement had indeed been an Alp, there are many persons
on whose minds it would have produced no more effect than the glass
roof. It would have been to them a glittering object of a certain
apparent length and breadth, and whether of glass or ice, whether
twenty feet in length, or twenty leagues, would have made no
difference to them; or, rather, would not have been in any wise
conceived or considered by them. Examine the nature of your own
emotion (if you feel it) at the sight of the Alp, and you find all
the brightness of that emotion hanging, like dew on gossamer, on a
curious web of subtle fancy and imperfect knowledge. First, you have
a vague idea of its size, coupled with wonder at the work of the
great Builder of its walls and foundations, then an apprehension of
its eternity, a pathetic sense of its perpetualness, and your own
transientness, as of the grass upon its sides; then, and in this
very sadness, a sense of strange companionship with past generations
in seeing what they saw. They did not see the clouds that are
floating over your head; nor the cottage wall on the other side of
the field; nor the road by which you are travelling. But they saw
_that_. The wall of granite in the heavens was the same to them as
to you. They have ceased to look upon it; you will soon cease to
look also, and the granite wall will be for others. Then, mingled
with these more solemn imaginations, come the understandings of the
gifts and glories of the Alps, the fancying forth of all the
fountains that well from its rocky walls, and strong rivers that are
born out of its ice, and of all the pleasant valleys that wind
between its cliffs, and all the châlets that gleam among its clouds,
and happy farmsteads couched upon its pastures; while together with
the thoughts of these, rise strange sympathies with all the unknown
of human life, and happiness, and death, signified by that narrow
white flame of the everlasting snow, seen so far in the morning sky.

These images, and far more than these, lie at the root of the emotion
which you feel at the sight of the Alp. You may not trace them in your
heart, for there is a great deal more in your heart, of evil and good,
than you ever can trace; but they stir you and quicken you for all
that. Assuredly, so far as you feel more at beholding the snowy
mountain than any other object of the same sweet silvery grey, these
are the kind of images which cause you to do so; and, observe, these
are nothing more than a greater apprehension of the _facts_ of the
thing. We call the power "Imagination," because it imagines or
conceives; but it is only noble imagination if it imagines or
conceives _the truth_. And, according to the degree of knowledge
possessed, and of sensibility to the pathetic or impressive character
of the things known, will be the degree of this imaginative delight.

§ 9. But the main point to be noted at present is, that if the
imagination can be excited to this its peculiar work, it matters
comparatively little what it is excited by. If the smoke had not
cleared partially away, the glass roof might have pleased me as well
as an alp, until I had quite lost sight of it; and if, in a picture,
the imagination can be once caught, and, without absolute affront
from some glaring fallacy, set to work in its own field, the
imperfection of the historical details themselves is, to the
spectator's enjoyment, of small consequence.

Hence it is, that poets and men of strong feeling in general, are
apt to be among the very worst judges of painting. The slightest
hint is enough for them. Tell them that a white stroke means a ship,
and a black stain, a thunderstorm, and they will be perfectly
satisfied with both, and immediately proceed to remember all that
they ever felt about ships and thunderstorms, attributing the whole
current and fulness of their own feelings to the painter's work;
while probably, if the picture be really good, and full of stern
fact, the poet, or man of feeling, will find some of its fact _in
his way_, out of the particular course of his own thoughts,--be
offended at it, take to criticising and wondering at it, detect, at
last, some imperfection in it,--such as must be inherent in all
human work,--and so finally quarrel with, and reject the whole
thing. Thus, Wordsworth writes many sonnets to Sir George Beaumont
and Haydon, none to Sir Joshua or to Turner.

§ 10. Hence also the error into which many superficial artists fall,
in speaking of "addressing the imagination" as the only end of art.
It is quite true that the imagination must be addressed; but it may
be very sufficiently addressed by the stain left by an ink-bottle
thrown at the wall. The thrower has little credit, though an
imaginative observer may find, perhaps, more to amuse him in the
erratic nigrescence than in many a labored picture. And thus, in a
slovenly or ill-finished picture, it is no credit to the artist that
he has "addressed the imagination;" nor is the success of such an
appeal any criterion whatever of the merit of the work. The duty of
an artist is not only to address and awaken, but to _guide_ the
imagination; and there is no safe guidance but that of simple
concurrence with fact. It is no matter that the picture takes the
fancy of A. or B., that C. writes sonnets to it, and D. feels it to
be divine. This is still the only question for the artist, or for
us:--"Is it a fact? Are things really so? Is the picture an Alp
among pictures, full, firm, eternal; or only a glass house, frail,
hollow, contemptible, demolishable; calling, at all honest hands,
for detection and demolition?"

§ 11. Hence it is also that so much grievous difficulty stands in
the way of obtaining _real opinion_ about pictures at all. Tell any
man, of the slightest imaginative power, that such and such a
picture is good, and means this or that: tell him, for instance,
that a Claude is good, and that it means trees, and grass, and
water; and forthwith, whatever faith, virtue, humility, and
imagination there are in the man, rise up to help Claude, and to
declare that indeed it is all "excellent good, i'faith;" and
whatever in the course of his life he has felt of pleasure in trees
and grass, he will begin to reflect upon and enjoy anew, supposing
all the while it is the picture he is enjoying. Hence, when once a
painter's reputation is accredited, it must be a stubborn kind of
person indeed whom he will not please, or seem to please; for all
the vain and weak people pretend to be pleased with him, for their
own credit's sake, and all the humble and imaginative people
seriously and honestly fancy they _are_ pleased with him, deriving
indeed, very certainly, delight from his work, but a delight which,
if they were kept in the same temper, they would equally derive
(and, indeed, constantly do derive) from the grossest daub that can
be manufactured in imitation by the pawnbroker. Is, therefore, the
pawnbroker's imitation as good as the original? Not so. There is the
certain test of goodness and badness, which I am always striving to
get people to use. As long as they are satisfied if they find their
feelings pleasantly stirred and their fancy gaily occupied, so long
there is for them no good, no bad. Anything may please, or anything
displease, them; and their entire manner of thought and talking
about art is mockery, and all their judgments are laborious
injustices. But let them, in the teeth of their pleasure or
displeasure, simply put the calm question,--Is it so? Is that the
way a stone is shaped, the way a cloud is wreathed, the way a leaf
is veined? and they are safe. They will do no more injustice to
themselves nor to other men; they will learn to whose guidance they
may trust their imagination, and from whom they must for ever
withhold its reins.

§ 12. "Well, but why have you dragged in this poor spectator's
imagination at all, if you have nothing more to say for it than
this; if you are merely going to abuse it, and go back to your
tiresome facts?"

Nay; I am not going to abuse it. On the contrary, I have to assert,
in a temper profoundly venerant of it, that though we must not
suppose everything is right when this is aroused, we may be sure
that something is wrong when this is _not_ aroused. The something
wrong may be in the spectator or in the picture; and if the picture
be demonstrably in accordance with truth, the odds are, that it is
in the spectator; but there is wrong somewhere; for the work of the
picture is indeed eminently to get at this imaginative power in the
beholder, and all its facts are of no use whatever if it does not.
No matter how much truth it tells if the hearer be asleep. Its first
work is to wake him, then to teach him.

§ 13. Now, observe, while, as it penetrates into the nature of
things, the imagination is preeminently a beholder of things _as_
they _are_, it is, in its creative function, an eminent beholder of
things _when_ and _where_ they are NOT; a seer, that is, in the
prophetic sense, calling "the things that are not as though they
were," and for ever delighting to dwell on that which is not
tangibly present. And its great function being the calling forth, or
back, that which is not visible to bodily sense, it has of course
been made to take delight in the fulfilment of its proper function,
and preeminently to enjoy, and spend its energy, on things past and
future, or out of sight, rather than things present, or in sight. So
that if the imagination is to be called to take delight in any
object, it will not be always well, if we can help it, to put the
_real_ object there, before it. The imagination would on the whole
rather have it _not_ there;--the reality and substance are rather in
the imagination's way; it would think a good deal more of the thing
if it could not see it. Hence, that strange and sometimes fatal
charm, which there is in all things as long as we wait for them, and
the moment we have lost them; but which fades while we possess
them;--that sweet bloom of all that is far away, which perishes
under our touch. Yet the feeling of this is not a weakness; it is
one of the most glorious gifts of the human mind, making the whole
infinite future, and imperishable past, a richer inheritance, if
faithfully inherited, than the changeful, frail, fleeting present;
it is also one of the many witnesses in us to the truth that these
present and tangible things are not meant to satisfy us. The
instinct becomes a weakness only when it is weakly indulged, and
when the faculty which was intended by God to give back to us what
we have lost, and gild for us what is to come, is so perverted as
only to darken what we possess. But, perverted or pure, the instinct
itself is everlasting, and the substantial presence even of the
things which we love the best, will inevitably and for ever be found
wanting in _one_ strange and tender charm, which belonged to the
dreams of them.

§ 14. Another character of the imagination is equally constant, and,
to our present inquiry, of yet greater importance. It is eminently a
_weariable_ faculty, eminently delicate, and incapable of bearing
fatigue; so that if we give it too many objects at a time to employ
itself upon, or very grand ones for a long time together, it fails
under the effort, becomes jaded, exactly as the limbs do by bodily
fatigue, and incapable of answering any farther appeal till it has
had rest. And this is the real nature of the weariness which is so
often felt in travelling, from seeing too much. It is not that the
monotony and number of the beautiful things seen have made them
valueless, but that the imaginative power has been overtaxed; and,
instead of letting it rest, the traveller, wondering to find himself
dull, and incapable of admiration, seeks for something more
admirable, excites, and torments, and drags the poor fainting
imagination up by the shoulders: "Look at this, and look at that,
and this more wonderful still!"--until the imaginative faculty
faints utterly away, beyond all farther torment or pleasure, dead
for many a day to come; and the despairing prodigal takes to
horse-racing in the Campagna, good now for nothing else than that;
whereas, if the imagination had only been laid down on the grass,
among simple things, and left quiet for a little while, it would
have come to itself gradually, recovered its strength and color, and
soon been fit for work again. So that, whenever the imagination is
tired, it is necessary to find for it something, not _more_
admirable but _less_ admirable; such as in that weak state it can
deal with; then give it peace, and it will recover.

§ 15. I well recollect the walk on which I first found out this; it
was on the winding road from Sallenche, sloping up the hills towards
St. Gervais, one cloudless Sunday afternoon. The road circles softly
between bits of rocky bank and mounded pasture; little cottages and
chapels gleaming out from among the trees at every turn. Behind me,
some leagues in length, rose the jagged range of the mountains of the
Réposoir; on the other side of the valley, the mass of the Aiguille de
Varens, heaving its seven thousand feet of cliff into the air at a
single effort, its gentle gift of waterfall, the Nant d'Arpenaz, like
a pillar of cloud at its feet; Mont Blanc and all its aiguilles, one
silver flame, in front of me; marvellous blocks of mossy granite and
dark glades of pine around me; but I could enjoy nothing, and could
not for a long while make out what was the matter with me, until at
last I discovered that if I confined myself to one thing,--and that a
little thing,--a tuft of moss, or a single crag at the top of the
Varens, or a wreath or two of foam at the bottom of the Nant
d'Arpenaz, I began to enjoy it directly, because then I had mind
enough to put into the thing, and the enjoyment arose from the
quantity of the imaginative energy I could bring to bear upon it; but
when I looked at or thought of all together, moss, stones, Varens,
Nant d'Arpenaz, and Mont Blanc, I had not mind enough to give to all,
and none were of any value. The conclusion which would have been
formed, upon this, by a German philosopher, would have been that the
Mont Blanc _was_ of no value; that he and his imagination only were of
value; that the Mont Blanc, in fact, except so far as he was able to
look at it, could not be considered as having any existence. But the
only conclusion which occurred to me as reasonable under the
circumstances (I have seen no ground for altering it since) was, that
I was an exceedingly small creature, much tired, and, at the moment,
not a little stupid, for whom a blade of grass, or a wreath of foam,
was quite food enough and to spare, and that if I tried to take any
more, I should make myself ill. Whereupon, associating myself
fraternally with some ants, who were deeply interested in the
conveyance of some small sticks over the road, and rather, as I think
they generally are, in too great a hurry about it, I returned home in
a little while with great contentment, thinking how well it was
ordered that, as Mont Blanc and his pine forests could not be
everywhere, nor all the world come to see them, the human mind, on the
whole, should enjoy itself most surely in an ant-like manner, and be
happy and busy with the bits of stick and grains of crystal that fall
in its way to be handled, in daily duty.

§ 16. It follows evidently from the first of these characters of the
imagination, its dislike of substance and presence, that a picture has
in some measure even an advantage with us in not being real. The
imagination rejoices in having something to do, springs up with all
its willing power, flattered and happy; and ready with its fairest
colors and most tender pencilling, to prove itself worthy of the
trust, and exalt into sweet supremacy the shadow that has been
confided to its fondness. And thus, so far from its being at all an
object to the painter to make his work look real, he ought to dread
such a consummation as the loss of one of its most precious claims
upon the heart. So far from striving to convince the beholder that
what he sees is substance, his mind should be to what he paints as the
fire to the body on the pile, burning away the ashes, leaving the
unconquerable shade--an immortal dream. So certain is this, that the
slightest local success in giving the deceptive appearance of
reality--the imitation, for instance, of the texture of a bit of wood,
with its grain in relief--will instantly destroy the charm of a whole
picture; the imagination feels itself insulted and injured, and passes
by with cold contempt; nay, however beautiful the whole scene may be,
as of late in much of our highly wrought painting for the stage, the
mere fact of its being deceptively real is enough to make us tire of
it; we may be surprised and pleased for a moment, but the imagination
will not on those terms be persuaded to give any of its help, and, in
a quarter of an hour, we wish the scene would change.

§ 17. "Well, but then, what becomes of all these long dogmatic
chapters of yours about giving nothing but the truth, and as much
truth as possible?"

The chapters are all quite right. "Nothing but the Truth," I say
still. "As much Truth as possible," I say still. But truth so
presented, that it will need the help of the imagination to make it
real. Between the painter and the beholder, each doing his proper
part, the reality should be sustained; and after the beholding
imagination has come forward and done its best, then, with its help,
and in the full action of it, the beholder should be able to say, I
feel as if I were at the real place, or seeing the real incident.
But not without that help.

§ 18. Farther, in consequence of that other character of the
imagination, fatiguableness, it is a great advantage to the picture
that it need not present too much at once, and that what it does
present may be so chosen and ordered as not only to be more easily
seized, but to give the imagination rest, and, as it were, places to
lie down and stretch its limbs in; kindly vacancies, beguiling it
back into action, with pleasant and cautious sequence of incident;
all jarring thoughts being excluded, all vain redundance denied, and
all just and sweet transition permitted.

And thus it is that, for the most part, imperfect sketches,
engravings, outlines, rude sculptures, and other forms of abstraction,
possess a charm which the most finished picture frequently wants. For
not only does the finished picture excite the imagination less, but,
like nature itself, it _taxes_ it more. None of it can be enjoyed till
the imagination is brought to bear upon it; and the details of the
completed picture are so numerous, that it needs greater strength and
willingness in the beholder to follow them all out; the redundance,
perhaps, being not too great for the mind of a careful observer, but
too great for a casual or careless observer. So that although the
perfection of art will always consist in the utmost _acceptable_
completion, yet, as every added idea will increase the difficulty of
apprehension, and every added touch advance the dangerous realism
which makes the imagination languid, the difference between a noble
and ignoble painter is in nothing more sharply defined than in
this,--that the first wishes to put into his work as much truth as
possible, and yet to keep it looking _un_-real; the second wishes to
get through his work lazily, with as little truth as possible, and yet
to make it look real; and, so far as they add color to their abstract
sketch, the first realizes for the sake of the color, and the second
colors for the sake of the realization.[50]

§ 19. And then, lastly, it is another infinite advantage possessed
by the picture, that in these various differences from reality it
becomes the expression of the power and intelligence of a
companionable human soul. In all this choice, arrangement,
penetrative sight, and kindly guidance, we recognize a supernatural
operation, and perceive, not merely the landscape or incident as in
a mirror, but, besides, the presence of what, after all, may perhaps
be the most wonderful piece of divine work in the whole matter--the
great human spirit through which it is manifested to us. So that,
although with respect to many important scenes, it might, as we saw
above, be one of the most precious gifts that could be given us to
see them with _our own eyes_, yet also in many things it is more
desirable to be permitted to see them with the eyes of others; and
although, to the small, conceited, and affected painter displaying
his narrow knowledge and tiny dexterities, our only word may be,
"Stand aside from between that nature and me," yet to the great
imaginative painter--greater a million times in every faculty of
soul than we--our word may wisely be, "Come between this nature and
me--this nature which is too great and too wonderful for me; temper
it for me, interpret it to me; let me see with your eyes, and hear
with your ears, and have help and strength from your great spirit."

All the noblest pictures have this character. They are true or
inspired ideals, seen in a moment to _be_ ideal; that is to say, the
result of all the highest powers of the imagination, engaged in the
discovery and apprehension of the purest truths, and having so
arranged them as best to show their preciousness and exalt their
clearness. They are always orderly, always one, ruled by one great
purpose throughout, in the fulfilment of which every atom of the
detail is called to help, and would be missed if removed; this
peculiar oneness being the result, not of obedience to any teachable
law, but of the magnificence of tone in the perfect mind, which
accepts only what is good for its great purposes, rejects whatever is
foreign or redundant, and instinctively and instantaneously ranges
whatever it accepts, in sublime subordination and helpful brotherhood.

§ 20. Then, this being the greatest art, the lowest art is the
mimicry of it,--the subordination of nothing to nothing; the
elaborate arrangement of sightlessness and emptiness; the order
which has no object; the unity which has no life, and the law which
has no love; the light which has nothing to illumine, and shadow
which has nothing to relieve.[51]

§ 21. And then, between these two, comes the wholesome, happy, and
noble--though not noblest--art of simple transcript from nature;
into which, so far as our modern Pre-Raphaelitism falls, it will
indeed do sacred service in ridding us of the old fallacies and
componencies, but cannot itself rise above the level of simple and
happy usefulness. So far as it is to be great, it must add,--and so
far as it _is_ great, has already added,--the great imaginative
element to all its faithfulness in transcript. And for this reason,
I said in the close of my Edinburgh Lectures, that Pre-Raphaelitism,
as long as it confined itself to the simple copying of nature, could
not take the character of the highest class of art. But it has
already, almost unconsciously, supplied the defect, and taken that
character, in all its best results; and, so far as it ought,
hereafter, it will assuredly do so, as soon as it is permitted to
maintain itself in any other position than that of stern antagonism
to the composition teachers around it. I say "so far as it ought,"
because, as already noticed in that same place, we have enough, and
to spare, of noble _inventful_ pictures; so many have we, that we
let them moulder away on the walls and roofs of Italy without one
regretful thought about them. But of simple transcripts from nature,
till now we have had none; even Van Eyck and Albert Durer having
been strongly filled with the spirit of grotesque idealism; so that
the Pre-Raphaelites have, to the letter, fulfilled Steele's
description of the author, who "determined to write in an entirely
new manner, and describe things exactly as they took place."

§ 22. We have now, I believe, in some sort answered most of the
questions which were suggested to us during our statement of the
nature of great art. I could recapitulate the answers; but perhaps
the reader is already sufficiently wearied of the recurrence of the
terms "Ideal," "Nature," "Imagination," "Invention," and will hardly
care to see them again interchanged among each other, in the
formalities of a summary. What difficulties may yet occur to him
will, I think, disappear as he either re-reads the passages which
suggested them, or follows out the consideration of the subject for
himself:--this very simple, but very precious, conclusion being
continually remembered by him as the sum of all; that greatness in
art (as assuredly in all other things, but more distinctly in this
than in most of them,) is not a teachable nor gainable thing, but
_the expression of the mind of a God-made great man_; that teach, or
preach, or labor as you will, everlasting difference is set between
one man's capacity and another's; and that this God-given supremacy
is the priceless thing, always just as rare in the world at one time
as another. What you can manufacture, or communicate, you can lower
the price of, but this mental supremacy is incommunicable; you will
never multiply its quantity, nor lower its price; and nearly the
best thing that men can generally do is to set themselves, not to
the attainment, but the discovery of this; learning to know gold,
when we see it, from iron-glance, and diamonds from flint-sand,
being for most of us a more profitable employment than trying to
make diamonds out of our own charcoal. And for this God-made
supremacy, I generally have used, and shall continue to use, the
word Inspiration, not carelessly nor lightly, but in all logical
calmness and perfect reverence. We English have many false ideas
about reverence: we should be shocked, for instance, to see a
market-woman come into church with a basket of eggs on her arm: we
think it more reverent to lock her out till Sunday; and to surround
the church with respectability of iron railings, and defend it with
pacing inhabitation of beadles. I believe this to be _ir_reverence;
and that it is more truly reverent, when the market-woman, hot and
hurried, at six in the morning, her head much confused with
calculations of the probable price of eggs, can nevertheless get
within church porch, and church aisle, and church chancel, lay the
basket down on the very steps of the altar, and receive thereat so
much of help and hope as may serve her for the day's work. In like
manner we are solemnly, but I think not wisely, shocked at any one
who comes hurriedly into church, in any figurative way, with his
basket on his arm; and perhaps, so long as we feel it so, it is
better to keep the basket out. But, as for this one commodity of
high mental supremacy, it cannot be kept out, for the very fountain
of it is in the church wall, and there is no other right word for it
but this of Inspiration; a word, indeed, often ridiculously
perverted, and irreverently used of fledgling poets and pompous
orators--no one being offended then, and yet cavilled at when
quietly used of the spirit that it is in a truly great man; cavilled
at, chiefly, it seems to me, because we expect to know inspiration
by the look of it. Let a man have shaggy hair, dark eyes, a rolling
voice, plenty of animal energy, and a facility of rhyming or
sentencing, and--improvisatore or sentimentalist--we call him
"inspired" willingly enough; but let him be a rough, quiet worker,
not proclaiming himself melodiously in any wise, but familiar with
us, unpretending, and letting all his littlenesses and feeblenesses
be seen, unhindered,--wearing an ill-cut coat withal, and, though he
be such a man as is only sent upon the earth once in five hundred
years, for some special human teaching, it is irreverent to call him
"inspired." But, be it irreverent or not, this word I must always
use; and the rest of what work I have here before me, is simply to
prove the truth of it, with respect to the one among these mighty
spirits whom we have just lost; who divided his hearers, as many an
inspired speaker has done before now, into two great sects--a large
and a narrow; these searching the Nature-scripture calmly, "whether
those things were so," and those standing haughtily on their Mars
hill, asking, "what will this babbler say?"

  [46] People of any sense, however, confined themselves to wonder.
       I think it was only in the Art Journal of September 1st,
       1854, that any writer had the meanness to charge me with
       insincerity. "The pictures of Turner and the works of the
       Pre-Raphaelites are the very antipodes of each other; it is,
       therefore, impossible that one and the same individual can
       with any _show of sincerity_ [Note, by the way, the Art-Union
       has no idea that _real_ sincerity is a thing existent or
       possible at all. All that it expects or hopes of human nature
       is, that it should have _show_ of sincerity,] stand forth as
       the thick and thin [I perceive the writer intends to teach me
       English, as well as honesty,] eulogist of both. With a
       certain knowledge of art, such as may be possessed by the
       author of English Painters, [Note, farther, that the eminent
       critic does not so much as know the title of the book he is
       criticising,] it is not difficult to praise any bad or
       mediocre picture that may be qualified with extravagance or
       mysticism. This author owes the public a heavy debt of
       explanation, which a lifetime spent in ingenious
       reconciliations would not suffice to discharge. A fervent
       admiration of certain pictures by Turner, and, at the same
       time, of some of the severest productions of the
       Pre-Raphaelites, presents an insuperable problem to persons
       whose taste in art is regulated by definite principles."

  [47] Part II. Sec. I. Chap. VII. § 46.

  [48] Part II. Sec. IV. Chap. IV. § 23., and Part II. Sec. I. Chap.
       VII. § 9. The whole of the Preface to the Second Edition is
       written to maintain this one point of specific detail against
       the advocates of generalization.

  [49] Vol. II. Chapter on Penetrative Imagination.

  [50] Several other points connected with this subject have already
       been noticed in the last chapter of the Stones of Venice, §
       21. &c.

  [51] "Though my pictures should have nothing else, they shall have
       Chiaroscuro."--CONSTABLE (in Leslie's Life of him). It is
       singular to reflect what that fatal Chiaroscuro has done in
       art, in the full extent of its influence. It has been not
       only shadow, but shadow of Death: passing over the face of
       the ancient art, as death itself might over a fair human
       countenance; whispering, as it reduced it to the white
       projections and lightless orbits of the skull, "Thy face
       shall have nothing else, but it shall have Chiaroscuro."



§ 1. Having now obtained, I trust, clear ideas, up to a certain
point, of what is generally right and wrong in all art, both in
conception and in workmanship, we have to apply these laws of right
to the particular branch of art which is the subject of our present
inquiry, namely, landscape-painting. Respecting which, after the
various meditations into which we have been led on the high duties
and ideals of art, it may not improbably occur to us first to
ask,--whether it be worth inquiring about at all.

That question, perhaps the reader thinks, should have been asked and
answered before I had written, or he read, two volumes and a half
about it. So I _had_ answered it, in my own mind; but it seems time
now to give the grounds for this answer. If, indeed, the reader has
never suspected that landscape-painting was anything but good,
right, and healthy work, I should be sorry to put any doubt of its
being so into his mind; but if, as seems to me more likely, he,
living in this busy and perhaps somewhat calamitous age, has some
suspicion that landscape-painting is but an idle and empty business,
not worth all our long talk about it, then, perhaps, he will be
pleased to have such suspicion done away, before troubling himself
farther with these disquisitions.

§ 2. I should rather be glad, than otherwise, that he _had_ formed
some suspicion on this matter. If he has at all admitted the truth
of anything hitherto said respecting great art, and its choices of
subject, it seems to me he ought, by this time, to be questioning
with himself whether road-side weeds, old cottages, broken stones,
and such other materials, be worthy matters for grave men to busy
themselves in the imitation of. And I should like him to probe this
doubt to the deep of it, and bring all his misgivings out to the
broad light, that we may see how we are to deal with them, or
ascertain if indeed they are too well founded to be dealt with.

§ 3. And to this end I would ask him now to imagine himself
entering, for the first time in his life, the room of the Old
Water-Color Society; and to suppose that he has entered it, not for
the sake of a quiet examination of the paintings one by one, but in
order to seize such ideas as it may generally suggest respecting the
state and meaning of modern as compared with elder, art. I suppose
him, of course, that he may be capable of such a comparison, to be
in some degree familiar with the different forms in which art has
developed itself within the periods historically known to us; but
never, till that moment, to have seen any completely modern work. So
prepared, and so unprepared, he would, as his ideas began to arrange
themselves, be first struck by the number of paintings representing
blue mountains, clear lakes, and ruined castles or cathedrals, and
he would say to himself: "There is something strange in the mind of
these modern people! Nobody ever cared about blue mountains before,
or tried to paint the broken stones of old walls." And the more he
considered the subject, the more he would feel the peculiarity; and,
as he thought over the art of Greeks and Romans, he would still
repeat, with increasing certainty of conviction: "Mountains! I
remember none. The Greeks did not seem, as artists, to know that
such things were in the world. They carved, or variously
represented, men, and horses, and beasts, and birds, and all kinds
of living creatures,--yes, even down to cuttle-fish; and trees, in a
sort of way; but not so much as the outline of a mountain; and as
for lakes, they merely showed they knew the difference between salt
and fresh water by the fish they put into each." Then he would pass
on to mediæval art: and still he would be obliged to repeat:
"Mountains! I remember none. Some careless and jagged arrangements
of blue spires or spikes on the horizon, and, here and there, an
attempt at representing an overhanging rock with a hole through it;
but merely in order to divide the light behind some human figure.
Lakes! No, nothing of the kind,--only blue bays of sea put in to
fill up the background when the painter could not think of anything
else. Broken-down buildings! No; for the most part very complete
and well-appointed buildings, if any; and never buildings at all,
but to give place or explanation to some circumstance of human
conduct." And then he would look up again to the modern pictures,
observing, with an increasing astonishment, that here the human
interest had, in many cases, altogether disappeared. That mountains,
instead of being used only as a blue ground for the relief of the
heads of saints, were themselves the exclusive subjects of reverent
contemplation; that their ravines, and peaks, and forests, were all
painted with an appearance of as much enthusiasm as had formerly
been devoted to the dimple of beauty, or the frowns of asceticism;
and that all the living interest which was still supposed necessary
to the scene, might be supplied by a traveller in a slouched hat, a
beggar in a scarlet cloak, or, in default of these, even by a heron
or a wild duck.

And if he could entirely divest himself of his own modern habits of
thought, and regard the subjects in question with the feelings of a
knight or monk of the middle ages, it might be a question whether
those feelings would not rapidly verge towards contempt. "What!" he
might perhaps mutter to himself, "here are human beings spending the
whole of their lives in making pictures of bits of stone and runlets
of water, withered sticks and flying frogs, and actually not a
picture of the gods or the heroes! none of the saints or the
martyrs! none of the angels and demons! none of councils or battles,
or any other single thing worth the thought of a man! Trees and
clouds indeed! as if I should not see as many trees as I cared to
see, and more, in the first half of my day's journey to-morrow, or
as if it mattered to any man whether the sky were clear or cloudy,
so long as his armor did not get too hot in the sun!"

§ 5. There can be no question that this would have been somewhat the
tone of thought with which either a Lacedæmonian, a soldier of Rome in
her strength, or a knight of the thirteenth century, would have been
apt to regard these particular forms of our present art. Nor can there
be any question that, in many respects, their judgment would have been
just. It is true that the indignation of the Spartan or Roman would
have been equally excited against any appearance of luxurious
industry; but the mediæval knight would, to the full, have admitted
the nobleness of art; only he would have had it employed in decorating
his church or his prayer-book, nor in imitating moors and clouds. And
the feelings of all the three would have agreed in this,--that their
main ground of offence must have been the want of _seriousness_ and
_purpose_ in what they saw. They would all have admitted the nobleness
of whatever conduced to the honor of the gods, or the power of the
nation; but they would not have understood how the skill of human life
could be wisely spent in that which did no honor either to Jupiter or
to the Virgin; and which in no wise tended, apparently, either to the
accumulation of wealth, the excitement of patriotism, or the
advancement of morality.

§ 6. And exactly so far forth their judgment would be just, as the
landscape-painting could indeed be shown, for others as well as for
them, to be art of this nugatory kind; and so far forth unjust, as
that painting could be shown to depend upon, or cultivate, certain
sensibilities which neither the Greek nor mediæval knight possessed,
and which have resulted from some extraordinary change in human nature
since their time. We have no right to assume, without very accurate
examination of it, that this change has been an ennobling one. The
simple fact, that we are, in some strange way, different from all the
great races that have existed before us, cannot at once be received as
the proof of our own greatness; nor can it be granted, without any
question, that we have a legitimate subject of complacency in being
under the influence of feelings, with which neither Miltiades nor the
Black Prince, neither Homer nor Dante, neither Socrates nor St.
Francis, could for an instant have sympathized.

§ 7. Whether, however, this fact be one to excite our pride or not,
it is assuredly one to excite our deepest interest. The fact itself
is certain. For nearly six thousand years the energies of man have
pursued certain beaten paths, manifesting some constancy of feeling
throughout all that period, and involving some fellowship at heart,
among the various nations who by turns succeeded or surpassed each
other in the several aims of art or policy. So that, for these
thousands of years, the whole human race might be to some extent
described in general terms. Man was a creature separated from all
others by his instinctive sense of an Existence superior to his own,
invariably manifesting this sense of the being of a God more
strongly in proportion to his own perfectness of mind and body; and
making enormous and self-denying efforts, in order to obtain some
persuasion of the immediate presence or approval of the Divinity. So
that, on the whole, the best things he did were done as in the
presence, or for the honor, of his gods; and, whether in statues, to
help him to imagine them, or temples raised to their honor, or acts
of self-sacrifice done in the hope of their love, he brought
whatever was best and skilfullest in him into their service, and
lived in a perpetual subjection to their unseen power. Also, he was
always anxious to know something definite about them; and his chief
books, songs, and pictures were filled with legends about them, or
especially devoted to illustration of their lives and nature.

§ 8. Next to these gods he was always anxious to know something
about his human ancestors; fond of exalting the memory, and telling
or painting the history of old rulers and benefactors; yet full of
an enthusiastic confidence in himself, as having in many ways
advanced beyond the best efforts of past time; and eager to record
his own doings for future fame. He was a creature eminently warlike,
placing his principal pride in dominion; eminently beautiful, and
having great delight in his own beauty: setting forth this beauty by
every species of invention in dress, and rendering his arms and
accoutrements superbly decorative of his form. He took, however,
very little interest in anything but what belonged to humanity;
caring in no wise for the external world, except as it influenced
his own destiny; honoring the lightning because it could strike him,
the sea because it could drown him, the fountains because they gave
him drink, and the grass because it yielded him seed; but utterly
incapable of feeling any special happiness in the love of such
things, or any earnest emotion about them, considered as separate
from man; therefore giving no time to the study of them;--knowing
little of herbs, except only which were hurtful, and which healing;
of stones, only which would glitter brightest in a crown, or last
the longest in a wall; of the wild beasts, which were best for food,
and which the stoutest quarry for the hunter;--thus spending only
on the lower creatures and inanimate things his waste energy, his
dullest thoughts, his most languid emotions, and reserving all his
acuter intellect for researches into his own nature and that of the
gods; all his strength of will for the acquirement of political or
moral power; all his sense of beauty for things immediately
connected with his own person and life; and all his deep affections
for domestic or divine companionship.

Such, in broad light and brief terms, was man for five thousand
years. Such he is no longer. Let us consider what he is now,
comparing the descriptions clause by clause.

§ 9. I. He _was_ invariably sensible of the existence of gods, and
went about all his speculations or works holding this as an
acknowledged fact, making his best efforts in their service. _Now_
he is capable of going through life with hardly any positive idea on
this subject,--doubting, fearing, suspecting, analyzing,--doing
everything, in fact, _but_ believing; hardly ever getting quite up
to that point which hitherto was wont to be the starting point for
all generations. And human work has accordingly hardly any reference
to spiritual beings, but is done either from a patriotic or personal
interest,--either to benefit mankind, or reach some selfish end, not
(I speak of human work in the broad sense) to please the gods.

II. He _was_ a beautiful creature, setting forth this beauty by all
means in his power, and depending upon it for much of his authority
over his fellows. So that the ruddy cheek of David, and the ivory
skin of Atrides, and the towering presence of Saul, and the blue
eyes of Coeur de Lion, were among the chief reasons why they
should be kings; and it was one of the aims of all education, and of
all dress, to make the presence of the human form stately and
lovely. _Now_ it has become the task of grave philosophy partly to
depreciate or conceal this bodily beauty; and even by those who
esteem it in their hearts, it is not made one of the great ends of
education: man has become, upon the whole, an ugly animal, and is
not ashamed of his ugliness.

III. He _was_ eminently warlike. He is _now_ gradually becoming more
and more ashamed of all the arts and aims of battle. So that the
desire of dominion, which was once frankly confessed or boasted of as
a heroic passion, is now sternly reprobated or cunningly disclaimed.

IV. He _used_ to take no interest in anything but what immediately
concerned himself. _Now_, he has deep interest in the abstract
natures of things, inquires as eagerly into the laws which regulate
the economy of the material world, as into those of his own being,
and manifests a passionate admiration of inanimate objects, closely
resembling, in its elevation and tenderness, the affection which he
bears to those living souls with which he is brought into the
nearest fellowship.

§ 10. It is this last change only which is to be the subject of our
present inquiry; but it cannot be doubted that it is closely
connected with all the others, and that we can only thoroughly
understand its nature by considering it in this connection. For,
regarded by itself, we might, perhaps, too rashly assume it to be a
natural consequence of the progress of the race. There appears to be
a diminution of selfishness in it, and a more extended and heartfelt
desire of understanding the manner of God's working; and this the
more, because one of the permanent characters of this change is a
greater accuracy in the statement of external facts. When the eyes
of men were fixed first upon themselves, and upon nature solely and
secondarily as bearing upon their interests, it was of less
consequence to them what the ultimate laws of nature were, than what
their immediate effects were upon human beings. Hence they could
rest satisfied with phenomena instead of principles, and accepted
without scrutiny every fable which seemed sufficiently or gracefully
to account for those phenomena. But so far as the eyes of men are
now withdrawn from themselves, and turned upon the inanimate things
about them, the results cease to be of importance, and the laws
become essential.

§ 11. In these respects, it might easily appear to us that this
change was assuredly one of steady and natural advance. But when we
contemplate the others above noted, of which it is clearly one of
the branches or consequences, we may suspect ourselves of
over-rashness in our self-congratulation, and admit the necessity of
a scrupulous analysis both of the feeling itself and of its

Of course a complete analysis, or anything like it, would involve a
treatise on the whole history of the world. I shall merely endeavor
to note some of the leading and more interesting circumstances
bearing on the subject, and to show sufficient practical ground for
the conclusion, that landscape painting is indeed a noble and useful
art, though one not long known by man. I shall therefore examine, as
best I can, the effect of landscape, 1st, on the Classical mind;
2ndly, on the Mediæval mind; and lastly, on the Modern mind. But
there is one point of some interest respecting the effect of it on
_any_ mind, which must be settled first, and this I will endeavor to
do in the next chapter.



§ 1. German dulness and English affectation, have of late much
multiplied among us the use of two of the most objectionable words
that were ever coined by the troublesomeness of metaphysicians,
--namely, "Objective" and "Subjective."

No words can be more exquisitely, and in all points, useless; and I
merely speak of them that I may, at once and for ever, get them out
of my way and out of my reader's. But to get that done, they must be

The word "Blue," say certain philosophers, means the sensation of
color which the human eye receives in looking at the open sky, or at
a bell gentian.

Now, say they farther, as this sensation can only be felt when the
eye is turned to the object, and as, therefore, no such sensation is
produced by the object when nobody looks at it, therefore the thing,
when it is not looked at, is not blue; and thus (say they) there are
many qualities of things which depend as much on something else as
on themselves. To be sweet, a thing must have a taster; it is only
sweet while it is being tasted, and if the tongue had not the
capacity of taste, then the sugar would not have the quality of

And then they agree that the qualities of things which thus depend
upon our perception of them, and upon our human nature as affected
by them, shall be called Subjective; and the qualities of things
which they always have, irrespective of any other nature, as
roundness or squareness, shall be called Objective.

From these ingenious views the step is very easy to a farther
opinion, that it does not much matter what things are in themselves,
but only what they are to us; and that the only real truth of them
is their appearance to, or effect upon, us. From which position,
with a hearty desire for mystification, and much egotism,
selfishness, shallowness, and impertinence, a philosopher may easily
go so far as to believe, and say, that everything in the world
depends upon his seeing or thinking of it, and that nothing,
therefore, exists, but what he sees or thinks of.

§ 2. Now, to get rid of all these ambiguities and troublesome words
at once, be it observed that the word "Blue" does _not_ mean the
_sensation_ caused by a gentian on the human eye; but it means the
_power_ of producing that sensation; and this power is always there,
in the thing, whether we are there to experience it or not, and
would remain there though there were not left a man on the face of
the earth. Precisely in the same way gunpowder has a power of
exploding. It will not explode if you put no match to it. But it has
always the power of so exploding, and is therefore called an
explosive compound, which it very positively and assuredly is,
whatever philosophy may say to the contrary.

In like manner, a gentian does not produce the sensation of blueness
if you don't look at it. But it has always the power of doing so;
its particles being everlastingly so arranged by its Maker. And,
therefore, the gentian and the sky are always verily blue, whatever
philosophy may say to the contrary; and if you do not see them blue
when you look at them, it is not their fault but yours.[52]

§ 3. Hence I would say to these philosophers: If, instead of using
the sonorous phrase, "It is objectively so," you will use the plain
old phrase, "It _is_ so;" and if instead of the sonorous phrase, "It
is subjectively so," you will say, in plain old English, "It does
so," or "It seems so to me;" you will, on the whole, be more
intelligible to your fellow-creatures: and besides, if you find
that a thing which generally "does so" to other people (as a gentian
looks blue to most men) does _not_ so to you, on any particular
occasion, you will not fall into the impertinence of saying that the
thing is not so, or did not so, but you will say simply (what you
will be all the better for speedily finding out) that something is
the matter with you. If you find that you cannot explode the
gunpowder, you will not declare that all gunpowder is subjective,
and all explosion imaginary, but you will simply suspect and declare
yourself to be an ill-made match. Which, on the whole, though there
may be a distant chance of a mistake about it, is, nevertheless, the
wisest conclusion you can come to until farther experiment.[53]

§ 4. Now, therefore, putting these tiresome and absurd words quite
out of our way, we may go on at our ease to examine the point in
question,--namely, the difference between the ordinary, proper, and
true appearances of things to us; and the extraordinary, or false
appearances, when we are under the influence of emotion, or
contemplative fancy;[54] false appearances, I say, as being entirely
unconnected with any real power or character in the object, and only
imputed to it by us.

For instance--

      "The spendthrift crocus, bursting through the mould
      Naked and shivering, with his cup of gold."[55]

This is very beautiful and yet very untrue. The crocus is not a
spendthrift, but a hardy plant; its yellow is not gold, but saffron.
How is it that we enjoy so much the having it put into our heads
that it is anything else than a plain crocus?

It is an important question. For, throughout our past reasonings
about art, we have always found that nothing could be good or
useful, or ultimately pleasurable, which was untrue. But here is
something pleasurable in written poetry which is nevertheless
_un_true. And what is more, if we think over our favorite poetry, we
shall find it full of this kind of fallacy, and that we like it all
the more for being so.

§ 5. It will appear also, on consideration of the matter, that this
fallacy is of two principal kinds. Either, as in this case of the
crocus, it is the fallacy of wilful fancy, which involves no real
expectation that it will be believed; or else it is a fallacy caused
by an excited state of the feelings, making us, for the time, more
or less irrational. Of the cheating of the fancy we shall have to
speak presently; but, in this chapter, I want to examine the nature
of the other error, that which the mind admits, when affected
strongly by emotion. Thus, for instance, in Alton Locke,--

      "They rowed her in across the rolling foam--
      The cruel, crawling foam."

The foam is not cruel, neither does it crawl. The state of mind
which attributes to it these characters of a living creature is one
in which the reason is unhinged by grief. All violent feelings have
the same effect. They produce in us a falseness in all our
impressions of external things, which I would generally characterize
as the "Pathetic fallacy."

§ 6. Now we are in the habit of considering this fallacy as
eminently a character of poetical description, and the temper of
mind in which we allow it, as one eminently poetical, because
passionate. But, I believe, if we look well into the matter, that
we shall find the greatest poets do not often admit this kind of
falseness,--that it is only the second order of poets who much
delight in it.[56]

Thus, when Dante describes the spirits falling from the bank of
Acheron "as dead leaves flutter from a bough," he gives the most
perfect image possible of their utter lightness, feebleness,
passiveness, and scattering agony of despair, without, however, for
an instant losing his own clear perception that _these_ are souls,
and _those_ are leaves: he makes no confusion of one with the other.
But when Coleridge speaks of

      "The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
      That dances as often as dance it can,"

he has a morbid, that is to say, a so far false, idea about the
leaf: he fancies a life in it, and will, which there are not;
confuses its powerlessness with choice, its fading death with
merriment, and the wind that shakes it with music. Here, however,
there is some beauty, even in the morbid passage; but take an
instance in Homer and Pope. Without the knowledge of Ulysses,
Elpenor, his youngest follower, has fallen from an upper chamber in
the Circean palace, and has been left dead, unmissed by his leader,
or companions, in the haste of their departure. They cross the sea
to the Cimmerian land; and Ulysses summons the shades from Tartarus.
The first which appears is that of the lost Elpenor. Ulysses,
amazed, and in exactly the spirit of bitter and terrified lightness
which is seen in Hamlet,[57] addresses the spirit with the simple,
startled words:--

    "Elpenor? How camest thou under the Shadowy darkness? Hast
    thou come faster on foot than I in my black ship?"

Which Pope renders thus:--

      "O, say, what angry power Elpenor led
      To glide in shades, and wander with the dead?
      How could thy soul, by realms and seas disjoined,
      Outfly the nimble sail, and leave the lagging wind?"

I sincerely hope the reader finds no pleasure here, either in the
nimbleness of the sail, or the laziness of the wind! And yet how is
it that these conceits are so painful now, when they have been
pleasant to us in the other instances?

§ 7. For a very simple reason. They are not a _pathetic_ fallacy at
all, for they are put into the mouth of the wrong passion--a passion
which never could possibly have spoken them--agonized curiosity.
Ulysses wants to know the facts of the matter; and the very last
thing his mind could do at the moment would be to pause, or suggest
in any wise what was _not_ a fact. The delay in the first three
lines, and conceit in the last, jar upon us instantly, like the most
frightful discord in music. No poet of true imaginative power could
possibly have written the passage. It is worth while comparing the
way a similar question is put by the exquisite sincerity of Keats:--

                  "He wept, and his bright tears
        Went trickling down the golden bow he held.
        Thus, with half-shut, suffused eyes, he stood;
        While from beneath some cumb'rous boughs hard by,
        With solemn step, an awful goddess came.
        And there was purport in her looks for him,
        Which he with eager guess began to read:
        Perplexed the while, melodiously he said,
        '_How cam'st thou over the unfooted sea?_'"

Therefore, we see that the spirit of truth must guide us in some
sort, even in our enjoyment of fallacy. Coleridge's fallacy has no
discord in it, but Pope's has set our teeth on edge. Without farther
questioning, I will endeavor to state the main bearings of this

§ 8. The temperament which admits the pathetic fallacy, is, as I
said above, that of a mind and body in some sort too weak to deal
fully with what is before them or upon them; borne away, or
over-clouded, or over-dazzled by emotion; and it is a more or less
noble state, according to the force of the emotion which has induced
it. For it is no credit to a man that he is not morbid or inaccurate
in his perceptions, when he has no strength of feeling to warp them;
and it is in general a sign of higher capacity and stand in the
ranks of being, that the emotions should be strong enough to
vanquish, partly, the intellect, and make it believe what they
choose. But it is still a grander condition when the intellect also
rises, till it is strong enough to assert its rule against, or
together with, the utmost efforts of the passions; and the whole man
stands in an iron glow, white hot, perhaps, but still strong, and in
no wise evaporating; even if he melts, losing none of his weight.

So, then, we have the three ranks: the man who perceives rightly,
because he does not feel, and to whom the primrose is very
accurately the primrose, because he does not love it. Then,
secondly, the man who perceives wrongly, because he feels, and to
whom the primrose is anything else than a primrose: a star, or a
sun, or a fairy's shield, or a forsaken maiden. And then, lastly,
there is the man who perceives rightly in spite of his feelings, and
to whom the primrose is for ever nothing else than itself--a little
flower, apprehended in the very plain and leafy fact of it, whatever
and how many soever the associations and passions may be, that crowd
around it. And, in general, these three classes may be rated in
comparative order, as the men who are not poets at all, and the
poets of the second order, and the poets of the first; only however
great a man may be, there are always some subjects which _ought_ to
throw him off his balance; some, by which his poor human capacity of
thought should be conquered, and brought into the inaccurate and
vague state of perception, so that the language of the highest
inspiration becomes broken, obscure, and wild in metaphor,
resembling that of the weaker man, overborne by weaker things.

§ 9. And thus, in full, there are four classes: the men who feel
nothing, and therefore see truly; the men who feel strongly, think
weakly, and see untruly (second order of poets); the men who feel
strongly, think strongly, and see truly (first order of poets); and
the men who, strong as human creatures can be, are yet submitted to
influences stronger than they, and see in a sort untruly, because
what they see is inconceivably above them. This last is the usual
condition of prophetic inspiration.

§ 10. I separate these classes, in order that their character may be
clearly understood; but of course they are united each to the other
by imperceptible transitions, and the same mind, according to the
influences to which it is subjected, passes at different times into
the various states. Still, the difference between the great and less
man is, on the whole, chiefly in this point of _alterability_. That
is to say, the one knows too much, and perceives and feels too much
of the past and future, and of all things beside and around that
which immediately affects him, to be in any wise shaken by it. His
mind is made up; his thoughts have an accustomed current; his ways
are steadfast; it is not this or that new sight which will at once
unbalance him. He is tender to impression at the surface, like a
rock with deep moss upon it; but there is too much mass of him to be
moved. The smaller man, with the same degree of sensibility, is at
once carried off his feet; he wants to do something he did not want
to do before; he views all the universe in a new light through his
tears; he is gay or enthusiastic, melancholy or passionate, as
things come and go to him. Therefore the high creative poet might
even be thought, to a great extent, impassive (as shallow people
think Dante stern), receiving indeed all feelings to the full, but
having a great centre of reflection and knowledge in which he stands
serene, and watches the feeling, as it were, from far off.

Dante, in his most intense moods, has entire command of himself, and
can look around calmly, at all moments, for the image or the word that
will best tell what he sees to the upper or lower world. But Keats and
Tennyson, and the poets of the second order, are generally themselves
subdued by the feelings under which they write, or, at least, write as
choosing to be so, and therefore admit certain expressions and modes
of thought which are in some sort diseased or false.

§ 11. Now so long as we see that the _feeling_ is true, we pardon,
or are even pleased by, the confessed fallacy of sight which it
induces: we are pleased, for instance, with those lines of
Kingsley's, above quoted, not because they fallaciously describe
foam, but because they faithfully describe sorrow. But the moment
the mind of the speaker becomes cold, that moment every such
expression becomes untrue, as being for ever untrue in the external
facts. And there is no greater baseness in literature than the habit
of using these metaphorical expressions in cool blood. An inspired
writer, in full impetuosity of passion, may speak wisely and truly
of "raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame;" but it is
only the basest writer who cannot speak of the sea without talking
of "raging waves," "remorseless floods," "ravenous billows," &c.;
and it is one of the signs of the highest power in a writer to check
all such habits of thought, and to keep his eyes fixed firmly on the
_pure fact_, out of which if any feeling comes to him or his reader,
he knows it must be a true one.

To keep to the waves, I forget who it is who represents a man in
despair, desiring that his body may be cast into the sea,

      "_Whose changing mound, and foam that passed away_,
      Might mock the eye that questioned where I lay."

Observe, there is not a single false, or even overcharged,
expression. "Mound" of the sea wave is perfectly simple and true;
"changing" is as familiar as may be; "foam that passed away,"
strictly literal; and the whole line descriptive of the reality with
a degree of accuracy which I know not any other verse, in the range
of poetry, that altogether equals. For most people have not a
distinct idea of the clumsiness and massiveness of a large wave. The
word "wave" is used too generally of ripples and breakers, and
bendings in light drapery or grass: it does not by itself convey a
perfect image. But the word "mound" is heavy, large, dark, definite;
there is no mistaking the kind of wave meant, nor missing the sight
of it. Then the term "changing" has a peculiar force also. Most
people think of waves as rising and falling. But if they look at the
sea carefully, they will perceive that the waves do not rise and
fall. They change. Change both place and form, but they do not fall;
one wave goes on, and on, and still on; now lower, now higher, now
tossing its mane like a horse, now building itself together like a
wall, now shaking, now steady, but still the same wave, till at last
it seems struck by something, and changes, one knows not
how,--becomes another wave.

The close of the line insists on this image, and paints it still
more perfectly,--"foam that passed away." Not merely melting,
disappearing, but passing on, out of sight, on the career of the
wave. Then, having put the absolute ocean fact as far as he may
before our eyes, the poet leaves us to feel about it as we may, and
to trace for ourselves the opposite fact,--the image of the green
mounds that do not change, and the white and written stones that do
not pass away; and thence to follow out also the associated images
of the calm life with the quiet grave, and the despairing life with
the fading foam:--

                   "Let no man move his bones."
    "As for Samaria, her king is cut off like the foam upon the water."

But nothing of this is actually told or pointed out, and the
expressions, as they stand, are perfectly severe and accurate, utterly
uninfluenced by the firmly governed emotion of the writer. Even the
word "mock" is hardly an exception, as it may stand merely for
"deceive" or "defeat," without implying any impersonation of the

§ 12. It may be well, perhaps, to give one or two more instances to
show the peculiar dignity possessed by all passages which thus limit
their expression to the pure fact, and leave the hearer to gather
what he can from it. Here is a notable one from the Iliad. Helen,
looking from the Scæan gate of Troy over the Grecian host, and
telling Priam the names of its captains, says at last:--

    "I see all the other dark-eyed Greeks; but two I cannot
    see,--Castor and Pollux,--whom one mother bore with me. Have
    they not followed from fair Lacedæmon, or have they indeed
    come in their sea-wandering ships, but now will not enter into
    the battle of men, fearing the shame and the scorn that is in

Then Homer:--

    "So she spoke. But them, already, the life-giving earth
    possessed, there in Lacedæmon, in the dear fatherland."

Note, here, the high poetical truth carried to the extreme. The poet
has to speak of the earth in sadness, but he will not let that
sadness affect or change his thoughts of it. No; though Castor and
Pollux be dead, yet the earth is our mother still, fruitful,
life-giving. These are the facts of the thing. I see nothing else
than these. Make what you will of them.

§ 13. Take another very notable instance from Casimir de la Vigne's
terrible ballad, "La Toilette de Constance." I must quote a few
lines out of it here and there, to enable the reader who has not the
book by him, to understand its close.

            "Vite, Anna, vite; au miroir
              Plus vite, Anna. L'heure s'avance,
            Et je vais au bal ce soir
              Chez l'ambassadeur de France.

      Y pensez vous, ils sont fanés, ces noeuds,
        Ils sont d'hier, mon Dieu, comme tout passe!
      Que du réseau qui retient mes cheveux
        Les glands d'azur retombent avec grâce.
      Plus haut! Plus bas! Vous ne comprenez rien!
        Que sur mon front ce saphir étincelle:
      Vous me piquez, mal-adroite. Ah, c'est bien,
        Bien,--chère Anna! Je t'aime, je suis belle.

      Celui qu'en vain je voudrais oublier
        (Anna, ma robe) il y sera, j'espère.
      (Ah, fi, profane, est-ce là mon collier?
        Quoi! ces grains d'or bénits par le Saint Père!)
      Il y sera; Dieu, s'il pressait ma main
        En y pensant, à peine je respire;
      Père Anselmo doit m'entendre demain,
        Comment ferai-je, Anna, pour tout lui dire?

            Vite un coup d'oeil au miroir,
              Le dernier.----J'ai l'assurance
            Qu'on va m'adorer ce soir
              Chez l'ambassadeur de France.

      Près du foyer, Constance s'admirait.
        Dieu! sur sa robe il vole une étincelle!
      Au feu. Courez; Quand l'espoir l'enivrait
        Tout perdre ainsi! Quoi! Mourir,--et si belle!
      L'horrible feu ronge avec volupté
        Ses bras, son sein, et l'entoure, et s'élève,
      Et sans pitie dévore sa beauté,
        Ses dixhuit ans, hélas, et son doux rêve!

            Adieu, bal, plaisir, amour!
              On disait, Pauvre Constance!
            Et on dansait, jusqu'au jour,
              Chez l'ambassadeur de France."

Yes, that is the fact of it. Right or wrong, the poet does not say.
What you may think about it, he does not know. He has nothing to do
with that. There lie the ashes of the dead girl in her chamber.
There they danced, till the morning, at the Ambassador's of France.
Make what you will of it.

If the reader will look through the ballad, of which I have quoted
only about the third part, he will find that there is not, from
beginning to end of it, a single poetical (so called) expression,
except in one stanza. The girl speaks as simple prose as may be; there
is not a word she would not have actually used as she was dressing.
The poet stands by, impassive as a statue, recording her words just as
they come. At last the doom seizes her, and in the very presence of
death, for an instant, his own emotions conquer him. He records no
longer the facts only, but the facts as they seem to him. The fire
gnaws with _voluptuousness--without pity_. It is soon past. The fate
is fixed for ever; and he retires into his pale and crystalline
atmosphere of truth. He closes all with the calm veracity,

      "They said, 'Poor Constance!'"

§ 14. Now in this there is the exact type of the consummate poetical
temperament. For, be it clearly and constantly remembered, that the
greatness of a poet depends upon the two faculties, acuteness of
feeling, and command of it. A poet is great, first in proportion to
the strength of his passion, and then, that strength being granted,
in proportion to his government of it; there being, however, always
a point beyond which it would be inhuman and monstrous if he pushed
this government, and, therefore, a point at which all feverish and
wild fancy becomes just and true. Thus the destruction of the
kingdom of Assyria cannot be contemplated firmly by a prophet of
Israel. The fact is too great, too wonderful. It overthrows him,
dashes him into a confused element of dreams. All the world is, to
his stunned thought, full of strange voices. "Yea, the fir-trees
rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, 'Since thou art
gone down to the grave, no feller is come up against us.'" So, still
more, the thought of the presence of Deity cannot be borne without
this great astonishment. "The mountains and the hills shall break
forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the fields shall
clap their hands."

§ 15. But by how much this feeling is noble when it is justified by
the strength of its cause, by so much it is ignoble when there is not
cause enough for it; and beyond all other ignobleness is the mere
affectation of it, in hardness of heart. Simply bad writing may almost
always, as above noticed, be known by its adoption of these fanciful
metaphorical expressions, as a sort of current coin; yet there is even
a worse, at least a more harmful, condition of writing than this, in
which such expressions are not ignorantly and feelinglessly caught up,
but, by some master, skilful in handling, yet insincere, deliberately
wrought out with chill and studied fancy; as if we should try to make
an old lava stream look red-hot again, by covering it with dead
leaves, or white-hot, with hoar-frost.

When Young is lost in veneration, as he dwells on the character of a
truly good and holy man, he permits himself for a moment to be
overborne by the feeling so far as to exclaim--

      "Where shall I find him? angels, tell me where.
      You know him; he is near you; point him out.
      Shall I see glories beaming from his brow,
      Or trace his footsteps by the rising flowers?"

This emotion has a worthy cause, and is thus true and right. But now
hear the cold-hearted Pope say to a shepherd girl--

      "Where'er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade!
      Trees, where you sit, shall crowd into a shade;
      Your praise the birds shall chant in every grove,
      And winds shall waft it to the powers above.
      But would you sing, and rival Orpheus' strain,
      The wondering forests soon should dance again;
      The moving mountains hear the powerful call,
      And headlong streams hang, listening, in their fall."

This is not, nor could it for a moment be mistaken for, the language
of passion. It is simple falsehood, uttered by hypocrisy; definite
absurdity, rooted in affectation, and coldly asserted in the teeth
of nature and fact. Passion will indeed go far in deceiving itself;
but it must be a strong passion, not the simple wish of a lover to
tempt his mistress to sing. Compare a very closely parallel passage
in Wordsworth, in which the lover has lost his mistress:

      "Three years had Barbara in her grave been laid,
      When thus his moan he made:--

      'Oh, move, thou cottage, from behind yon oak,
        Or let the ancient tree uprooted lie,
      That in some other way yon smoke
        May mount into the sky.

      If still behind yon pine-tree's ragged bough,
        Headlong, the waterfall must come,
        Oh, let it, then, be dumb--
      Be anything, sweet stream, but that which thou art now.'"

Here is a cottage to be moved, if not a mountain, and a waterfall
to be silent, if it is not to hang listening; but with what
different relation to the mind that contemplates them! Here, in the
extremity of its agony, the soul cries out wildly for relief, which
at the same moment it partly knows to be impossible, but partly
believes possible, in a vague impression that a miracle _might_ be
wrought to give relief even to a less sore distress,--that nature is
kind, and God is kind, and that grief is strong; it knows not well
what _is_ possible to such grief. To silence a stream, to move a
cottage wall,--one might think it could do as much as that!

§ 16. I believe these instances are enough to illustrate the main
point I insist upon respecting the pathetic fallacy,--that so far
as it _is_ a fallacy, it is always the sign of a morbid state of
mind, and comparatively of a weak one. Even in the most inspired
prophet it is a sign of the incapacity of his human sight or thought
to bear what has been revealed to it. In ordinary poetry, if it is
found in the thoughts of the poet himself, it is at once a sign of
his belonging to the inferior school; if in the thoughts of the
characters imagined by him, it is right or wrong according to the
genuineness of the emotion from which it springs; always, however,
implying necessarily _some_ degree of weakness in the character.

Take two most exquisite instances from master hands. The Jessy of
Shenstone, and the Ellen of Wordsworth, have both been betrayed and
deserted. Jessy, in the course of her most touching complaint, says:

      "If through the garden's flowery tribes I stray,
        Where bloom the jasmines that could once allure,
      'Hope not to find delight in us,' they say,
        'For we are spotless, Jessy; we are pure.'"

Compare with this some of the words of Ellen:

      "'Ah, why,' said Ellen, sighing to herself,
      'Why do not words, and kiss, and solemn pledge,
      And nature, that is kind in woman's breast,
      And reason, that in man is wise and good,
      And fear of Him who is a righteous Judge,--
      Why do not these prevail for human life,
      To keep two hearts together, that began
      Their springtime with one love, and that have need
      Of mutual pity and forgiveness, sweet
      To grant, or be received; while that poor bird--
      O, come and hear him! Thou who hast to me
      Been faithless, hear him;--though a lowly creature,
      One of God's simple children, that yet know not
      The Universal Parent, _how_ he sings!
      As if he wished the firmament of heaven
      Should listen, and give back to him the voice
      Of his triumphant constancy and love.
      The proclamation that he makes, how far
      His darkness doth transcend our fickle light.'"

The perfection of both these passages, as far as regards truth and
tenderness of imagination in the two poets, is quite insuperable.
But, of the two characters imagined, Jessy is weaker than Ellen,
exactly in so far as something appears to her to be in nature which is
not. The flowers do not really reproach her. God meant them to comfort
her, not to taunt her; they would do so if she saw them rightly.

Ellen, on the other hand, is quite above the slightest erring
emotion. There is not the barest film of fallacy in all her
thoughts. She reasons as calmly as if she did not feel. And,
although the singing of the bird suggests to her the idea of its
desiring to be heard in heaven, she does not for an instant admit
any veracity in the thought. "As if," she says,--"I know he means
nothing of the kind; but it does verily seem as if." The reader will
find, by examining the rest of the poem, that Ellen's character is
throughout consistent in this clear though passionate strength.

It then being, I hope, now made clear to the reader in all respects
that the pathetic fallacy is powerful only so far as it is pathetic,
feeble so far as it is fallacious, and, therefore, that the dominion
of Truth is entire, over this, as over every other natural and just
state of the human mind, we may go on to the subject for the dealing
with which this prefatory inquiry became necessary; and why
necessary, we shall see forthwith.[58]

  [52] It is quite true, that in all qualities involving sensation,
       there may be a doubt whether different people receive the
       same sensation from the same thing (compare Part II. Sec. I.
       Chap. V. § 6.); but, though this makes such facts not
       distinctly explicable, it does not alter the facts
       themselves. I derive a certain sensation, which I call
       sweetness, from sugar. That is a fact. Another person feels a
       sensation, which _he_ also calls sweetness, from sugar. That
       is also a fact. The sugar's power to produce these two
       sensations, which we suppose to be, and which are, in all
       probability, very nearly the same in both of us, and, on the
       whole, in the human race, is its sweetness.

  [53] In fact (for I may as well, for once, meet our German friends
       in their own style), all that has been subjected to us on
       this subject seems object to this great objection; that the
       subjection of all things (subject to no exceptions) to senses
       which are, in us, both subject and abject, and objects of
       perpetual contempt, cannot but make it our ultimate object to
       subject ourselves to the senses, and to remove whatever
       objections existed to such subjection. So that, finally, that
       which is the subject of examination or object of attention,
       uniting thus in itself the characters of subness and obness
       (so that, that which has no obness in it should be called
       sub-subjective, or a sub-subject, and that which has no
       subness in it should be called upper or ober-objective, or an
       ob-object); and we also, who suppose ourselves the objects of
       every arrangement, and are certainly the subjects of every
       sensual impression, thus uniting in ourselves, in an obverse
       or adverse manner, the characters of obness and subness, must
       both become metaphysically dejected or rejected, nothing
       remaining in _us_ objective, but subjectivity, and the very
       objectivity of the object being lost in the abyss of this
       subjectivity of the Human.

       There is, however, some meaning in the above sentence, if the
       reader cares to make it out; but in a pure German sentence of
       the highest style there is often none whatever. See Appendix
       II. "German Philosophy."

  [54] Contemplative, in the sense explained in Part III. Sec. II.
       Chap. IV.

  [55] Holmes (Oliver Wendell), quoted by Miss Mitford in her
       Recollections of a Literary Life.

  [56] I admit two orders of poets, but no third; and by these two
       orders I mean the Creative (Shakspere, Homer, Dante), and
       Reflective or Perceptive (Wordsworth, Keats, Tennyson). But
       both of these must be _first_-rate in their range, though
       their range is different; and with poetry second-rate in
       _quality_ no one ought to be allowed to trouble mankind.
       There is quite enough of the best,--much more than we can
       ever read or enjoy in the length of a life; and it is a
       literal wrong or sin in any person to encumber us with
       inferior work. I have no patience with apologies made by
       young pseudo-poets, "that they believe there is _some_ good
       in what they have written: that they hope to do better in
       time," etc. _Some_ good! If there is not _all_ good, there is
       no good. If they ever hope to do better, why do they trouble
       us now? Let them rather courageously burn all they have done,
       and wait for the better days. There are few men, ordinarily
       educated, who in moments of strong feeling could not strike
       out a poetical thought, and afterwards polish it so as to be
       presentable. But men of sense know better than so to waste
       their time; and those who sincerely love poetry, know the
       touch of the master's hand on the chords too well to fumble
       among them after him. Nay, more than this; all inferior
       poetry is an injury to the good, inasmuch as it takes away
       the freshness of rhymes, blunders upon and gives a wretched
       commonalty to good thoughts; and, in general, adds to the
       weight of human weariness in a most woful and culpable
       manner. There are few thoughts likely to come across ordinary
       men, which have not already been expressed by greater men in
       the best possible way; and it is a wiser, more generous, more
       noble thing to remember and point out the perfect words, than
       to invent poorer ones, wherewith to encumber temporarily the

  [57] "Well said, Old mole! can'st work i' the ground so fast?"

  [58] I cannot quit this subject without giving two more instances,
       both exquisite, of the pathetic fallacy, which I have just
       come upon, in Maude:

                                 "For a great speculation had fail'd;
          And ever he mutter'd and madden'd, and ever wann'd with
        And out he walk'd, when the wind like a broken worldling
          And the _flying gold of the ruin'd woodlands drove thro'
                the air_."

            "There has fallen a splendid tear
              From the passion-flower at the gate.
            _The red rose cries, 'She is near, she is near!'_
              _And the white rose weeps, 'She is late.'_
            _The larkspur listens, 'I hear, I hear!'_
              _And the lily whispers, 'I wait.'_"



§ 1. My reason for asking the reader to give so much of his time to
the examination of the pathetic fallacy was, that, whether in
literature or in art, he will find it eminently characteristic of
the modern mind; and in the landscape, whether of literature or art,
he will also find the modern painter endeavoring to express
something which he, as a living creature, imagines in the lifeless
object, while the classical and mediæval painters were content with
expressing the unimaginary and actual qualities of the object
itself. It will be observed that, according to the principle stated
long ago, I use the words painter and poet quite indifferently,
including in our inquiry the landscape of literature, as well as
that of painting; and this the more because the spirit of classical
landscape has hardly been expressed in any other way than by words.

§ 2. Taking, therefore, this wide field, it is surely a very notable
circumstance, to begin with, that this pathetic fallacy is eminently
characteristic of modern painting. For instance, Keats, describing a
wave, breaking, out at sea, says of it--

      "Down whose green back the short-lived foam, all hoar,
      Bursts gradual, with a wayward indolence."

That is quite perfect, as an example of the modern manner. The idea
of the peculiar action with which foam rolls down a long, large wave
could not have been given by any other words so well as by this
"wayward indolence." But Homer would never have written, never
thought of, such words. He could not by any possibility have lost
sight of the great fact that the wave, from the beginning to the end
of it, do what it might, was still nothing else than salt water; and
that salt water could not be either wayward or indolent. He will
call the waves "over-roofed," "full-charged," "monstrous,"
"compact-black," "dark-clear," "violet-colored," "wine-colored," and
so on. But every one of these epithets is descriptive of pure
physical nature. "Over-roofed" is the term he invariably uses of
anything--rock, house, or wave--that nods over at the brow; the
other terms need no explanation; they are as accurate and intense in
truth as words can be, but they never show the slightest feeling of
anything animated in the ocean. Black or clear, monstrous or
violet-colored, cold salt water it is always, and nothing but that.

§ 3. "Well, but the modern writer, by his admission of the tinge of
fallacy, has given an idea of something in the action of the wave
which Homer could not, and surely, therefore, has made a step in
advance? Also there appears to be a degree of sympathy and feeling
in the one writer, which there is not in the other; and as it has
been received for a first principle that writers are great in
proportion to the intensity of their feelings, and Homer seems to
have no feelings about the sea but that it is black and deep, surely
in this respect also the modern writer is the greater?"

Stay a moment. Homer _had_ some feeling about the sea; a faith in
the animation of it much stronger than Keats's. But all this sense
of something living in it, he separates in his mind into a great
abstract image of a Sea Power. He never says the waves rage, or the
waves are idle. But he says there is somewhat in, and greater than,
the waves, which rages, and is idle, and _that_ he calls a god.

§ 4. I do not think we ever enough endeavor to enter into what a
Greek's real notion of a god was. We are so accustomed to the modern
mockeries of the classical religion, so accustomed to hear and see
the Greek gods introduced as living personages, or invoked for help,
by men who believe neither in them nor in any other gods, that we
seem to have infected the Greek ages themselves with the breath, and
dimmed them with the shade, of our hypocrisy; and are apt to think
that Homer, as we know that Pope, was merely an ingenious fabulist;
nay, more than this, that all the nations of past time were
ingenious fabulists also, to whom the universe was a lyrical drama,
and by whom whatsoever was said about it was merely a witty
allegory, or a graceful lie, of which the entire upshot and
consummation was a pretty statue in the middle of the court, or at
the end of the garden.

This, at least, is one of our forms of opinion about Greek faith; not,
indeed, possible altogether to any man of honesty or ordinary powers
of thought; but still so venomously inherent in the modern philosophy
that all the pure lightning of Carlyle cannot as yet quite burn it out
of any of us. And then, side by side with this mere infidel folly,
stands the bitter short-sightedness of Puritanism, holding the
classical god to be either simply an idol,--a block of stone
ignorantly, though sincerely, worshipped,--or else an actual diabolic
or betraying power, usurping the place of god.

§ 5. Both these Puritanical estimates of Greek deity are of course
to some extent true. The corruption of classical worship is barren
idolatry; and that corruption was deepened, and variously directed
to their own purposes, by the evil angels. But this was neither the
whole, nor the principal part, of Pagan worship. Pallas was not, in
the pure Greek mind, merely a powerful piece of ivory in a temple at
Athens; neither was the choice of Leonidas between the alternatives
granted him by the oracle, of personal death, or ruin to his
country, altogether a work of the Devil's prompting.

§ 6. What, then, was actually the Greek god? In what way were these
two ideas of human form, and divine power, credibly associated in
the ancient heart, so as to become a subject of true faith,
irrespective equally of fable, allegory, superstitious trust in
stone, and demoniacal influence?

It seems to me that the Greek had exactly the same instinctive
feeling about the elements that we have ourselves; that to Homer, as
much as to Casimir de la Vigne, fire seemed ravenous and pitiless;
to Homer, as much as to Keats, the sea-wave appeared wayward or
idle, or whatever else it may be to the poetical passion. But then
the Greek reasoned upon this sensation, saying to himself: "I can
light the fire, and put it out; I can dry this water up, or drink
it. It cannot be the fire or the water that rages, or that is
wayward. But it must be something _in_ this fire and _in_ the water,
which I cannot destroy by extinguishing the one, or evaporating the
other, any more than I destroy myself by cutting off my finger; _I_
was _in_ my finger,--something of me at least was; I had a power
over it, and felt pain in it, though I am still as much myself when
it is gone. So there may be a power in the water which is not water,
but to which the water is as a body;--which can strike with it, move
in it, suffer in it, yet not be destroyed in it. This something,
this great Water Spirit, I must not confuse with the waves, which
are only its body. _They_ may flow hither and thither, increase or
diminish. _That_ must be indivisible--imperishable--a god. So of
fire also; those rays which I can stop, and in the midst of which I
cast a shadow, cannot be divine, nor greater than I. They cannot
feel, but there may be something in them that feels,--a glorious
intelligence, as much nobler and more swift than mine, as these
rays, which are its body, are nobler and swifter than my flesh;--the
spirit of all light, and truth, and melody, and revolving hours."

§ 7. It was easy to conceive, farther, that such spirits should be
able to assume at will a human form, in order to hold intercourse
with men, or to perform any act for which their proper body, whether
fire, earth, or air, was unfitted. And it would have been to place
them beneath, instead of above, humanity, if, assuming the form of
man, they could not also have tasted his pleasures. Hence the easy
step to the more or less material ideas of deities, which are apt at
first to shock us, but which are indeed only dishonorable so far as
they represent the gods as false and unholy. It is not the
materialism, but the vice, which degrades the conception; for the
materialism itself is never positive or complete. There is always
some sense of exaltation in the spiritual and immortal body; and of
a power proceeding from the visible form through all the infinity of
the element ruled by the particular god. The precise nature of the
idea is well seen in the passage of the Iliad which describes the
river Scamander defending the Trojans against Achilles. In order to
remonstrate with the hero, the god assumes a human form, which
nevertheless is in some way or other instantly recognized by
Achilles as that of the river-god: it is addressed at once as a
river, not as a man; and its voice is the voice of a river, "out of
the deep whirlpools."[59] Achilles refuses to obey its commands; and
from the human form it returns instantly into its natural or divine
one, and endeavors to overwhelm him with waves. Vulcan defends
Achilles, and sends fire against the river, which suffers in its
water-body, till it is able to bear no more. At last even the "nerve
of the river," or "strength of the river" (note the expression),
feels the fire, and this "strength of the river" addresses Vulcan in
supplications for respite. There is in this precisely the idea of a
vital part of the river-body, which acted and felt, and which, if
the fire reached it, was death, just as would be the case if it
touched a vital part of the human body. Throughout the passage the
manner of conception is perfectly clear and consistent; and if, in
other places, the exact connection between the ruling spirit and the
thing ruled is not so manifest, it is only because it is almost
impossible for the human mind to dwell long upon such subjects
without falling into inconsistencies, and gradually slackening its
effort to grasp the entire truth; until the more spiritual part of
it slips from its hold, and only the human form of the god is left,
to be conceived and described as subject to all the errors of
humanity. But I do not believe that the idea ever weakens itself
down to mere allegory. When Pallas is said to attack and strike down
Mars, it does not mean merely that Wisdom at that moment prevailed
against Wrath. It means that there are indeed two great spirits, one
entrusted to guide the human soul to wisdom and chastity, the other
to kindle wrath and prompt to battle. It means that these two
spirits, on the spot where, and at the moment when, a great contest
was to be decided between all that they each governed in man, then
and there assumed human form, and human weapons, and did verily and
materially strike at each other, until the Spirit of Wrath was
crushed. And when Diana is said to hunt with her nymphs in the
woods, it does not mean merely as Wordsworth puts it, that the poet
or shepherd saw the moon and stars glancing between the branches of
the trees, and wished to say so figuratively. It means that there
is a living spirit, to which the light of the moon is a body; which
takes delight in glancing between the clouds and following the wild
beasts as they wander through the night; and that this spirit
sometimes assumes a perfect human form, and in this form, with real
arrows, pursues and slays the wild beasts, which with its mere
arrows of moonlight it could not slay; retaining, nevertheless, all
the while, its power, and being in the moonlight, and in all else
that it rules.

§ 8. There is not the smallest inconsistency or unspirituality in
this conception. If there were, it would attach equally to the
appearance of the angels to Jacob, Abraham, Joshua, or Manoah. In
all those instances the highest authority which governs our own
faith requires us to conceive divine power clothed with a human form
(a form so real that it is recognized for superhuman only by its
"doing wondrously"), and retaining, nevertheless, sovereignty and
omnipresence in all the world. This is precisely, as I understand
it, the heathen idea of a God; and it is impossible to comprehend
any single part of the Greek mind until we grasp this faithfully,
not endeavoring to explain it away in any wise, but accepting, with
frank decision and definition, the tangible existence of its
deities;--blue-eyed--white-fleshed--human-hearted,--capable at their
choice of meeting man absolutely in his own nature--feasting with
him--talking with him--fighting with him, eye to eye, or breast to
breast, as Mars with Diomed; or else, dealing with him in a more
retired spirituality, as Apollo sending the plague upon the Greeks,
when his quiver rattles at his shoulders as he moves, and yet the
darts sent forth of it strike not as arrows, but as plague; or,
finally, retiring completely into the material universe which they
properly inhabit, and dealing with man through that, as Scamander
with Achilles through his waves.

§ 9. Nor is there anything whatever in the various actions recorded of
the gods, however apparently ignoble, to indicate weakness of belief
in them. Very frequently things which appear to us ignoble are merely
the simplicities of a pure and truthful age. When Juno beats Diana
about the ears with her own quiver, for instance, we start at first,
as if Homer could not have believed that they were both real
goddesses. But what should Juno have done? Killed Diana with a look?
Nay, she neither wished to do so, nor could she have done so, by the
very faith of Diana's goddess-ship. Diana is as immortal as herself.
Frowned Diana into submission? But Diana has come expressly to try
conclusions with her, and will by no means be frowned into submission.
Wounded her with a celestial lance? That sounds more poetical, but it
is in reality partly more savage, and partly more absurd, than Homer.
More savage, for it makes Juno more cruel, therefore less divine; and
more absurd, for it only seems elevated in tone, because we use the
word "celestial," which means nothing. What sort of a thing is a
"celestial" lance? Not a wooden one. Of what then? Of moonbeams, or
clouds, or mist. Well, therefore, Diana's arrows were of mist too; and
her quiver, and herself, and Juno, with her lance, and all, vanish
into mist. Why not have said at once, if that is all you mean, that
two mists met, and one drove the other back? That would have been
rational and intelligible, but not to talk of celestial lances. Homer
had no such misty fancy; he believed the two goddesses were there in
true bodies, with true weapons, on the true earth; and still I ask,
what should Juno have done? Not beaten Diana? No; for it is
un-lady-like. Un-English-lady-like, yes; but by no means
un-Greek-lady-like, nor even un-natural-lady-like. If a modern lady
does _not_ beat her servant or her rival about the ears, it is oftener
because she is too weak, or too proud, than because she is of purer
mind than Homer's Juno. She will not strike them; but she will
overwork the one or slander the other without pity; and Homer would
not have thought that one whit more goddess-like than striking them
with her open hand.

§ 10. If, however, the reader likes to suppose that while the two
goddesses in personal presence thus fought with arrow and quiver,
there was also a broader and vaster contest supposed by Homer
between the elements they ruled; and that the goddess of the
heavens, as she struck the goddess of the moon on the flushing
cheek, was at the same instant exercising omnipresent power in the
heavens themselves, and gathering clouds, with which, filled with
the moon's own arrows or beams, she was encumbering and concealing
the moon; he is welcome to this out-carrying of the idea, provided
that he does not pretend to make it an interpretation instead of a
mere extension, nor think to explain away my real, running,
beautiful beaten Diana, into a moon behind clouds.[60]

§ 11. It is only farther to be noted, that the Greek conception of
Godhead, as it was much more real than we usually suppose, so it was
much more bold and familiar than to a modern mind would be possible.
I shall have something more to observe, in a little while, of the
danger of our modern habit of endeavoring to raise ourselves to
something like comprehension of the truth of divinity, instead of
simply believing the words in which the Deity reveals Himself to us.
The Greek erred rather on the other side, making hardly any effort
to conceive divine mind as above the human; and no more shrinking
from frank intercourse with a divine being, or dreading its
immediate presence, than that of the simplest of mortals. Thus
Atrides, enraged at his sword's breaking in his hand upon the helmet
of Paris, after he had expressly invoked the assistance of Jupiter,
exclaims aloud, as he would to a king who had betrayed him, "Jove,
Father, there is not another god more evil-minded than thou!" and
Helen, provoked at Paris's defeat, and oppressed with pouting shame
both for him and for herself, when Venus appears at her side, and
would lead her back to the delivered Paris, impatiently tells the
goddess to "go and take care of Paris herself."

§ 12. The modern mind is naturally, but vulgarly and unjustly,
shocked by this kind of familiarity. Rightly understood, it is not
so much a sign of misunderstanding of the divine nature as of good
understanding of the human. The Greek lived, in all things, a
healthy, and, in a certain degree, a perfect life. He had no morbid
or sickly feeling of any kind. He was accustomed to face death
without the slightest shrinking, to undergo all kinds of bodily
hardship without complaint, and to do what he supposed right and
honorable, in most cases, as a matter of course. Confident of his
own immortality, and of the power of abstract justice, he expected
to be dealt with in the next world as was right, and left the
matter much in his gods' hands; but being thus immortal, and finding
in his own soul something which it seemed quite as difficult to
master, as to rule the elements, he did not feel that it was an
appalling superiority in those gods to have bodies of water, or
fire, instead of flesh, and to have various work to do among the
clouds and waves, out of his human way; or sometimes, even, in a
sort of service to himself. Was not the nourishment of herbs and
flowers a kind of ministering to his wants? were not the gods in
some sort his husbandmen, and spirit-servants? Their mere strength
or omnipresence did not seem to him a distinction absolutely
terrific. It might be the nature of one being to be in two places at
once, and of another to be only in one; but that did not seem of
itself to infer any absolute lordliness of one nature above the
other, any more than an insect must be a nobler creature than a man,
because it can see on four sides of its head, and the man only in
front. They could kill him or torture him, it was true; but even
that not unjustly, or not for ever. There was a fate, and a Divine
Justice, greater than they; so that if they did wrong, and he right,
he might fight it out with them, and have the better of them at
last. In a general way, they were wiser, stronger, and better than
he; and to ask counsel of them, to obey them, to sacrifice to them,
to thank them for all good, this was well; but to be utterly
downcast before them, or not to tell them his mind in plain Greek if
they seemed to him to be conducting themselves in an ungodly
manner,--this would not be well.

§ 13. Such being their general idea of the gods, we can now easily
understand the habitual tone of their feelings towards what was
beautiful in nature. With us, observe, the idea of the Divinity is
apt to get separated from the life of nature; and imagining our God
upon a cloudy throne, far above the earth, and not in the flowers or
waters, we approach those visible things with a theory that they are
dead, governed by physical laws, and so forth. But coming to them,
we find the theory fail; that they are not dead; that, say what we
choose about them, the instinctive sense of their being alive is too
strong for us; and in scorn of all physical law, the wilful fountain
sings, and the kindly flowers rejoice. And then, puzzled, and yet
happy; pleased, and yet ashamed of being so; accepting sympathy
from nature, which we do not believe it gives, and giving sympathy
to nature, which we do not believe it receives,--mixing, besides,
all manner of purposeful play and conceit with these involuntary
fellowships,--we fall necessarily into the curious web of hesitating
sentiment, pathetic fallacy, and wandering fancy, which form a great
part of our modern view of nature. But the Greek never removed his
god out of nature at all; never attempted for a moment to contradict
his instinctive sense that God was everywhere. "The tree _is_ glad,"
said he, "I know it is; I can cut it down; no matter, there was a
nymph in it. The water _does_ sing," said he; "I can dry it up; but
no matter, there was a naiad in it." But in thus clearly defining
his belief, observe, he threw it entirely into a human form, and
gave his faith to nothing but the image of his own humanity. What
sympathy and fellowship he had, were always for the spirit _in_ the
stream, not for the stream; always for the dryad _in_ the wood, not
for the wood. Content with this human sympathy, he approached the
actual waves and woody fibres with no sympathy at all. The spirit
that ruled them, he received as a plain fact. Them, also, ruled and
material, he received as plain facts; they, without their spirit,
were dead enough. A rose was good for scent, and a stream for sound
and coolness; for the rest, one was no more than leaves, the other
no more than water; he could not make anything else of them; and the
divine power, which was involved in their existence, having been all
distilled away by him into an independent Flora or Thetis, the poor
leaves or waves were left, in mere cold corporealness, to make the
most of their being discernibly red and soft, clear and wet, and
unacknowledged in any other power whatsoever.

§ 14. Then, observe farther, the Greeks lived in the midst of the
most beautiful nature, and were as familiar with blue sea, clear
air, and sweet outlines of mountain, as we are with brick walls,
black smoke, and level fields. This perfect familiarity rendered all
such scenes of natural beauty unexciting, if not indifferent, to
them, by lulling and overwearying the imagination as far as it was
concerned with such things; but there was another kind of beauty
which they found it required effort to obtain, and which, when
thoroughly obtained, seemed more glorious than any of this wild
loveliness--the beauty of the human countenance and form. This, they
perceived, could only be reached by continual exercise of virtue;
and it was in Heaven's sight, and theirs, all the more beautiful
because it needed this self-denial to obtain it. So they set
themselves to reach this, and having gained it, gave it their
principal thoughts, and set it off with beautiful dress as best they
might. But making this their object, they were obliged to pass their
lives in simple exercise and disciplined employments. Living
wholesomely, giving themselves no fever fits, either by fasting or
over-eating, constantly in the open air, and full of animal spirit
and physical power, they became incapable of every morbid condition
of mental emotion. Unhappy love, disappointed ambition, spiritual
despondency, or any other disturbing sensation, had little power
over the well-braced nerves, and healthy flow of the blood; and what
bitterness might yet fasten on them was soon boxed or raced out of a
boy, and spun or woven out of a girl, or danced out of both. They
had indeed their sorrows, true and deep, but still, more like
children's sorrows than ours, whether bursting into open cry of
pain, or hid with shuddering under the veil, still passing over the
soul as clouds do over heaven, not sullying it, not mingling with
it;--darkening it perhaps long or utterly, but still not becoming
one with it, and for the most part passing away in dashing rain of
tears, and leaving the man unchanged; in nowise affecting, as our
sorrow does, the whole tone of his thought and imagination

How far our melancholy may be deeper and wider than theirs, in its
roots and view, and therefore nobler, we shall consider presently;
but at all events, they had the advantage of us in being entirety
free from all those dim and feverish sensations which result from
unhealthy state of the body. I believe that a large amount of the
dreamy and sentimental sadness, tendency to reverie, and general
patheticalness of modern life results merely from derangement of
stomach; holding to the Greek life the same relation that the
feverish night of an adult does to a child's sleep.

§ 15. Farther. The human beauty, which, whether in its bodily being
or in imagined divinity, had become, for the reasons we have seen,
the principal object of culture and sympathy to these Greeks, was,
in its perfection, eminently orderly, symmetrical, and tender.
Hence, contemplating it constantly in this state, they could not but
feel a proportionate fear of all that was disorderly, unbalanced,
and rugged. Having trained their stoutest soldiers into a strength
so delicate and lovely, that their white flesh, with their blood
upon it, should look like ivory stained with purple;[61] and having
always around them, in the motion and majesty of this beauty, enough
for the full employment of their imagination, they shrank with dread
or hatred from all the ruggedness of lower nature,--from the
wrinkled forest bark, the jagged hill-crest, and irregular,
inorganic storm of sky; looking to these for the most part as
adverse powers, and taking pleasure only in such portions of the
lower world as were at once conducive to the rest and health of the
human frame, and in harmony with the laws of its gentler beauty.

§ 16. Thus, as far as I recollect, without a single exception, every
Homeric landscape, intended to be beautiful, is composed of a
fountain, a meadow, and a shady grove. This ideal is very
interestingly marked, as intended for a perfect one, in the fifth
book of the Odyssey; when Mercury himself stops for a moment, though
on a message, to look at a landscape "which even an immortal might
be gladdened to behold." This landscape consists of a cave covered
with a running vine, all blooming into grapes, and surrounded by a
grove of alder, poplar, and sweet-smelling cypress. Four fountains
of white (foaming) water, springing _in succession_ (mark the
orderliness), and close to one another, flow away in different
directions, through a meadow full of violets and parsley (parsley,
to mark its moisture, being elsewhere called "marsh-nourished," and
associated with the lotus);[62] the air is perfumed not only by
these violets and by the sweet cypress, but by Calypso's fire of
finely chopped cedar wood, which sends a smoke as of incense,
through the island; Calypso herself is singing; and finally, upon
the trees are resting, or roosting, owls, hawks, and "long-tongued
sea-crows." Whether these last are considered as a part of the
ideal landscape, as marine singing-birds, I know not; but the
approval of Mercury appears to be elicited chiefly by the fountains
and violet meadow.

§ 17. Now the notable things in this description are, first, the
evident subservience of the whole landscape to human comfort, to the
foot, the taste, or the smell; and, secondly, that throughout the
passage there is not a single figurative word expressive of the
things being in any wise other than plain grass, fruit or flower. I
have used the term "spring" of the fountains, because, without
doubt, Homer means that they sprang forth brightly, having their
source at the foot of the rocks (as copious fountains nearly always
have); but Homer does not say "spring," he says simply flow, and
uses only one word for "growing softly," or "richly," of the tall
trees, the vine, and the violets. There is, however, some expression
of sympathy with the sea-birds; he speaks of them in precisely the
same terms, as in other places of naval nations, saying they "have
care of the works of the sea."

§ 18. If we glance through the references to pleasant landscape which
occur in other parts of the Odyssey, we shall always be struck by this
quiet subjection of their every feature to human service, and by the
excessive similarity in the scenes. Perhaps the spot intended, after
this, to be most perfect, may be the garden of Alcinous, where the
principal ideas are, still more definitely, order, symmetry, and
fruitfulness; the beds being duly ranged between rows of vines, which,
as well as the pear, apple, and fig-trees, bear fruit continually,
some grapes being yet sour, while others are getting black; there are
plenty of "_orderly_ square beds of herbs," chiefly leeks, and two
fountains, one running through the garden, and one under the pavement
of the palace to a reservoir for the citizens. Ulysses, pausing to
contemplate this scene, is described nearly in the same terms as
Mercury pausing to contemplate the wilder meadow; and it is
interesting to observe, that, in spite of all Homer's love of
symmetry, the god's admiration is excited by the free fountains, wild
violets, and wandering vine; but the mortal's, by the vines in rows,
the leeks in beds, and the fountains in pipes.

Ulysses has, however, one touching reason for loving vines in rows.
His father had given him fifty rows for himself, when he was a boy,
with corn between them (just as it now grows in Italy). Proving his
identity afterwards to his father, whom he finds at work in his
garden, "with thick gloves on, to keep his hands from the thorns,"
he reminds him of these fifty rows of vines, and of the "thirteen
pear-trees and ten apple-trees" which he had given him; and Laertes
faints upon his neck.

§ 19. If Ulysses had not been so much of a gardener, it might have
been received as a sign of considerable feeling for landscape
beauty, that, intending to pay the very highest possible compliment
to the Princess Nausicaa (and having indeed, the moment before,
gravely asked her whether she was a goddess or not), he says that he
feels, at seeing her, exactly as he did when he saw the young
palm-tree growing at Apollo's shrine at Delos. But I think the taste
for trim hedges and upright trunks has its usual influence over him
here also, and that he merely means to tell the princess that she is
delightfully tall and straight.

§ 20. The princess is, however, pleased by his address, and tells
him to wait outside the town, till she can speak to her father about
him. The spot to which she directs him is another ideal piece of
landscape, composed of a "beautiful grove of aspen poplars, a
fountain, and a meadow," near the road-side; in fact, as nearly as
possible such a scene as meets the eye of the traveller every
instant on the much-despised lines of road through lowland France;
for instance, on the railway between Arras and Amiens;--scenes, to
my mind, quite exquisite in the various grouping and grace of their
innumerable poplar avenues, casting sweet, tremulous shadows over
their level meadows and labyrinthine streams. We know that the
princess means aspen poplars, because soon afterwards we find her
fifty maid-servants at the palace, all spinning, and in perpetual
motion, compared to the "leaves of the tall poplar;" and it is with
exquisite feeling that it is made afterwards[63] the chief tree in
the groves of Proserpine; its light and quivering leafage having
exactly the melancholy expression of fragility, faintness, and
inconstancy which the ancients attributed to the disembodied
spirit.[64] The likeness to the poplars by the streams of Amiens is
more marked still in the Iliad, where the young Simois, struck by
Ajax, falls to the earth "like an aspen that has grown in an
irrigated meadow, smooth-trunked, the soft shoots springing from its
top, which some coach-making man has cut down with his keen iron,
that he may fit a wheel of it to a fair chariot, and it lies
parching by the side of the stream." It is sufficiently notable that
Homer, living in mountainous and rocky countries, dwells thus
delightedly on all the _flat_ bits; and so I think invariably the
inhabitants of mountain countries do, but the inhabitants of the
plains do not, in any similar way, dwell delightedly on mountains.
The Dutch painters are perfectly contented with their flat fields
and pollards: Rubens, though he had seen the Alps, usually composes
his landscapes of a hayfield or two, plenty of pollards and willows,
a distant spire, a Dutch house with a moat about it, a windmill, and
a ditch. The Flemish sacred painters are the only ones who introduce
mountains in the distance, as we shall see presently; but rather in
a formal way than with any appearance of enjoyment. So Shakspere
never speaks of mountains with the slightest joy, but only of
lowland flowers, flat fields, and Warwickshire streams. And if we
talk to the mountaineer, he will usually characterize his own
country to us as a "pays affreux," or in some equivalent, perhaps
even more violent, German term: but the lowland peasant does not
think his country frightful; he either will have no ideas beyond it,
or about it; or will think it a very perfect country, and be apt to
regard any deviation from its general principle of flatness with
extreme disfavor; as the Lincolnshire farmer in Alton Locke: "I'll
shaw 'ee some'at like a field o' beans, I wool--none o' this here
darned ups and downs o' hills, to shake a body's victuals out of his
inwards--all so vlat as a barn door, for vorty mile on end--there's
the country to live in!"

I do not say whether this be altogether right (though certainly not
wholly wrong), but it seems to me that there must be in the simple
freshness and fruitfulness of level land, in its pale upright
trees, and gentle lapse of silent streams, enough for the
satisfaction of the human mind in general; and I so far agree with
Homer, that if I had to educate an artist to the full perception of
the meaning of the word "gracefulness" in landscape, I should send
him neither to Italy nor to Greece, but simply to those poplar
groves between Arras and Amiens.

§ 21. But to return more definitely to our Homeric landscape. When
it is perfect, we have, as in the above instances, the foliage and
meadows together; when imperfect, it is always either the foliage or
the meadow; preëminently the meadow, or arable field. Thus, meadows
of asphodel are prepared for the happier dead; and even Orion, a
hunter among the mountains in his lifetime, pursues the ghosts of
beasts in these asphodel meadows after death.[65] So the sirens sing
in a meadow; and throughout the Odyssey there is a general tendency
to the depreciation of poor Ithaca, because it is rocky, and only
fit for goats, and has "no meadows;" for which reason Telemachus
refuses Atrides's present of horses, congratulating the Spartan king
at the same time on ruling over a plain which has "plenty of lotus
in it, and rushes," with corn and barley. Note this constant
dwelling on the marsh plants, or, at least, those which grow in flat
and well-irrigated land, or beside streams: when Scamander, for
instance, is restrained by Vulcan, Homer says, very sorrowfully,
that "all his lotus, and reeds, and rushes were burnt;" and thus
Ulysses, after being shipwrecked and nearly drowned, and beaten
about the sea for many days and nights, on raft and mast, at last
getting ashore at the mouth of a large river, casts himself down
first upon its _rushes_, and then, in thankfulness, kisses the
"corn-giving land," as most opposed, in his heart, to the fruitless
and devouring sea.[66]

§ 22. In this same passage, also, we find some peculiar expressions of
the delight which the Greeks had in trees, for, when Ulysses first
comes in sight of land, which gladdens him, "as the reviving of a
father from his sickness gladdens his children," it is not merely the
sight of the land itself which gives him such pleasure, but of the
"land and _wood_." Homer never throws away any words, at least in such
a place as this; and what in another poet would have been merely the
filling up of the deficient line with an otherwise useless word, is in
him the expression of the general Greek sense, that land of any kind
was in nowise grateful or acceptable till there was _wood_ upon it (or
corn; but the corn, in the flats, could not be seen so far as the
black masses of forest on the hill sides), and that, as in being rushy
and corn-giving, the low land, so in being woody, the high land, was
most grateful to the mind of the man who for days and nights had been
wearied on the engulphing sea. And this general idea of wood and corn,
as the types of the fatness of the whole earth, is beautifully marked
in another place of the Odyssey,[67] where the sailors in a desert
island, having no flour or corn to offer as a meat offering with their
sacrifices, take the leaves of the trees, and scatter them over the
burnt offering instead.

§ 23. But still, every expression of the pleasure which Ulysses has in
this landing and resting, contains uninterruptedly the reference to
the utility and sensible pleasantness of all things, not to their
beauty. After his first grateful kiss given to the corn-growing land,
he considers immediately how he is to pass the night: for some minutes
hesitating whether it will be best to expose himself to the misty
chill from the river, or run the risk of wild beasts in the wood. He
decides for the wood, and finds in it a bower formed by a sweet and a
wild olive tree, interlacing their branches, or--perhaps more
accurately translating Homer's intensely graphic expression--"changing
their branches with each other" (it is very curious how often, in an
entanglement of wood, one supposes the branches to belong to the wrong
trees), and forming a roof penetrated by neither rain, sun, nor wind.
Under this bower Ulysses collects the "_vain_ (or _frustrate_)
outpouring of the dead leaves"--another exquisite expression, used
elsewhere of useless grief or shedding of tears;--and, having got
enough together, makes his bed of them, and goes to sleep, having
covered himself up with them, "as embers are covered up with ashes."

Nothing can possibly be more intensely possessive of the _facts_
than this whole passage; the sense of utter deadness and emptiness,
and frustrate fall in the leaves; of dormant life in the human
body,--the fire, and heroism, and strength of it, lulled under the
dead brown heap, as embers under ashes, and the knitting of
interchanged and close strength of living boughs above. But there is
not the smallest apparent sense of there being _beauty_ elsewhere
than in the human being. The wreathed wood is admired simply as
being a perfect roof for it; the fallen leaves only as being a
perfect bed for it; and there is literally no more excitement of
emotion in Homer, as he describes them, nor does he expect us to be
more excited or touched by hearing about them, than if he had been
telling us how the chamber-maid at the Bull aired the four-poster,
and put on two extra blankets.

§ 24. Now, exactly this same contemplation of subservience to human
use makes the Greek take some pleasure in _rocks_, when they assume
one particular form, but one only--that of a _cave_. They are
evidently quite frightful things to him under any other condition,
and most of all if they are rough and jagged; but if smooth, looking
"sculptured," like the sides of a ship, and forming a cave or
shelter for him, he begins to think them endurable. Hence,
associating the ideas of rich and sheltering wood, sea, becalmed and
made useful as a port by projecting promontories of rock, and
smoothed caves or grottoes in the rocks themselves, we get the
pleasantest idea which the Greek could form of a landscape, next to
a marsh with poplars in it; not, indeed, if possible, ever to be
without these last: thus, in commending the Cyclops' country as one
possessed of every perfection, Homer first says: "They have soft
_marshy_ meadows near the sea, and good, rich, crumbling,
ploughing-land, giving fine deep crops, and vines always giving
fruit;" then, "a port so quiet, that they have no need of cables in
it; and at the head of the port, a beautiful clear spring just
_under a cave_, and _aspen poplars all round it_."[68]

§ 25. This, it will be seen, is very nearly Homer's usual "ideal;"
but, going into the middle of the island, Ulysses comes on a rougher
and less agreeable bit, though still fulfilling certain required
conditions of endurableness; a "cave shaded with laurels," which,
having no poplars about it, is, however, meant to be somewhat
frightful, and only fit to be inhabited by a Cyclops. So in the
country of the Læstrygons, Homer, preparing his reader gradually for
something very disagreeable, represents the rocks as bare and
"exposed to the sun;" only with some smooth and slippery roads over
them, by which the trucks bring down wood from the higher hills. Any
one familiar with Swiss slopes of hills must remember how often he
has descended, sometimes faster than was altogether intentional, by
these same slippery woodman's track roads.

And thus, in general, whenever the landscape is intended to be
lovely, it verges towards the ploughed land and poplars; or, at
worst, to _woody_ rocks; but, if intended to be painful, the rocks
are bare and "sharp." This last epithet, constantly used by Homer
for mountains, does not altogether correspond, in Greek, to the
English term, nor is it intended merely to characterize the sharp
mountain summits; for it never would be applied simply to the edge
or point of a sword, but signifies rather "harsh," "bitter," or
"painful," being applied habitually to fate, death, and in Od. ii.
333. to a halter; and, as expressive of general objectionableness
and unpleasantness, to all high, dangerous, or peaked mountains, as
the Maleian promontory (a much dreaded one), the crest of Parnassus,
the Tereian mountain, and a grim or untoward, though, by keeping off
the force of the sea, protective, rock at the mouth of the Jardanus;
as well as habitually to inaccessible or impregnable fortresses
built on heights.

§ 26. In all this I cannot too strongly mark the utter absence of
any trace of the feeling for what we call the picturesque, and the
constant dwelling of the writer's mind on what was available,
pleasant, or useful; his ideas respecting all landscape being not
uncharacteristically summed, finally, by Pallas herself; when,
meeting Ulysses, who after his long wandering does not recognize his
own country, and meaning to describe it as politely and soothingly
as possible, she says:[69]--"This Ithaca of ours is, indeed, a rough
country enough, and not good for driving in; but, still, things
might be worse: it has plenty of corn, and good wine, and _always
rain_, and soft nourishing dew; and it has good feeding for goats
and oxen, and all manner of wood, and springs fit to drink at all
the year round."

We shall see presently how the blundering, pseudo-picturesque,
pseudo-classical minds of Claude and the Renaissance landscape
painters, wholly missing Homer's practical common sense, and equally
incapable of feeling the quiet natural grace and sweetness of his
asphodel meadows, tender aspen poplars, or running vines,--fastened
on his _ports_ and _caves_, as the only available features of his
scenery; and appointed the type of "classical landscape"
thenceforward to consist in a bay of insipid sea, and a rock with a
hole through it.[70]

§ 27. It may indeed be thought that I am assuming too hastily that
this was the general view of the Greeks respecting landscape, because
it was Homer's. But I believe the true mind of a nation, at any
period, is always best ascertainable by examining that of its greatest
men; and that simpler and truer results will be attainable for us by
simply comparing Homer, Dante, and Walter Scott, than by attempting
(what my limits must have rendered absurdly inadequate, and in which,
also, both my time and knowledge must have failed me) an analysis of
the landscape in the range of contemporary literature. All that I can
do, is to state the general impression which has been made upon me by
my desultory reading, and to mark accurately the grounds for this
impression, in the works of the greatest men. Now it is quite true
that in others of the Greeks, especially in Æschylus and Aristophanes,
there is infinitely more of modern feeling, of pathetic fallacy, love
of picturesque or beautiful form, and other such elements, than there
is in Homer; but then these appear to me just the parts of them which
were not Greek, the elements of their minds by which (as one division
of the human race always must be with subsequent ones) they are
connected with the mediævals and moderns. And without doubt, in his
influence over future mankind, Homer is eminently the Greek of Greeks;
if I were to associate any one with him it would be Herodotus, and I
believe all I have said of the Homeric landscape will be found equally
true of the Herodotean, as assuredly it will be of the Platonic; the
contempt, which Plato sometimes expresses by the mouth of Socrates,
for the country in general, except so far as it is shady, and has
cicadas and running streams to make pleasant noises in it, being
almost ludicrous. But Homer is the great type, and the more notable
one because of his influence on Virgil, and, through him, on Dante,
and all the after ages: and in like manner, if we can get the abstract
of mediæval landscape out of Dante, it will serve us as well as if we
had read all the songs of the troubadours, and help us to the farther
changes in derivative temper, down to all modern time.

§ 28. I think, therefore, the reader may safely accept the
conclusions about Greek landscape which I have got for him out of
Homer; and in these he will certainly perceive something very
different from the usual imaginations we form of Greek feelings. We
think of the Greeks as poetical, ideal, imaginative, in the way that
a modern poet or novelist is; supposing that their thoughts about
their mythology and world were as visionary and artificial as ours
are: but I think the passages I have quoted show that it was not so,
although it may be difficult for us to apprehend the strange
minglings in them of the elements of faith, which, in our days, have
been blended with other parts of human nature in a totally different
guise. Perhaps the Greek mind may be best imagined by taking, as its
groundwork, that of a good, conscientious, but illiterate, Scotch
Presbyterian Border farmer of a century or two back, having perfect
faith in the bodily appearances of Satan and his imps; and in all
kelpies, brownies, and fairies. Substitute for the indignant terrors
in this man's mind, a general persuasion of the _Divinity_, more or
less beneficent, yet faultful, of all these beings; that is to say,
take away his belief in the demoniacal malignity of the fallen
spiritual world, and lower, in the same degree, his conceptions of
the angelical, retaining for him the same firm faith in both; keep
his ideas about flowers and beautiful scenery much as they
are,--his delight in regular ploughed land and meadows, and a neat
garden (only with rows of gooseberry bushes instead of vines,)
being, in all probability, about accurately representative of the
feelings of Ulysses; then, let the military spirit that is in him,
glowing against the Border forager, or the foe of old Flodden and
Chevy-Chase, be made more principal, with a higher sense of
nobleness in soldiership, not as a careless excitement, but a
knightly duty; and increased by high cultivation of every personal
quality, not of mere shaggy strength, but graceful strength, aided
by a softer climate, and educated in all proper harmony of sight and
sound: finally, instead of an informed Christian, suppose him to
have only the patriarchal Jewish knowledge of the Deity, and even
this obscured by tradition, but still thoroughly solemn and
faithful, requiring his continual service as a priest of burnt
sacrifice and meat offering; and I think we shall get a pretty close
approximation to the vital being of a true old Greek; some slight
difference still existing in a feeling which the Scotch farmer would
have of a pleasantness in blue hills and running streams, wholly
wanting in the Greek mind; and perhaps also some difference of views
on the subjects of truth and honesty. But the main points, the easy,
athletic, strongly logical and argumentative, yet fanciful and
credulous, characters of mind, would be very similar in both; and
the most serious change in the substance of the stuff among the
modifications above suggested as necessary to turn the Scot into the
Greek, is that effect of softer climate and surrounding luxury,
inducing the practice of various forms of polished art,--the more
polished, because the practical and realistic tendency of the
Hellenic mind (if my interpretation of it be right) would quite
prevent it from taking pleasure in any irregularities of form, or
imitations of the weeds and wildnesses of that mountain nature with
which it thought itself born to contend. In its utmost refinement of
work, it sought eminently for orderliness; carried the principle of
the leeks in squares, and fountains in pipes, perfectly out in its
streets and temples; formalized whatever decoration it put into its
minor architectural mouldings, and reserved its whole heart and
power to represent the action of living men, or gods, though not
unconscious meanwhile, of

      "The simple, the sincere delight;
      The habitual scene of hill and dale
      The rural herds, the vernal gale;
      The tangled vetches' purple bloom;
      The fragrance of the bean's perfume,--
      Theirs, theirs alone, who cultivate the soil,
      And drink the cup of thirst, and eat the bread of toil."

  [59] Compare Lay of the Last Minstrel, canto i. stanza 15., and
       canto v. stanza 2. In the first instance, the river-spirit is
       accurately the Homeric god, only Homer would have believed in
       it,--Scott did not; at least not altogether.

  [60] Compare the exquisite lines of Longfellow on the sunset in
       the Golden Legend:--

           "The day is done, and slowly from the scene
           The stooping sun upgathers his spent shafts,
           And puts them back into his golden quiver."

  [61] Iliad iv. 141.

  [62] Iliad ii. 776.

  [63] Odyssey, x. 510.

  [64] Compare the passage in Dante referred to above, Chap. XII. § 6.

  [65] Odyssey, xi. 571. xxiv. 13. The couch of Ceres, with Homer's
       usual faithfulness, is made of a _ploughed_ field, v. 127.

  [66] Odyssey, v. 398.

  [67] Odyssey, xii. 357.

  [68] Odyssey, ix. 132. &c. Hence Milton's

           "From haunted spring, and dale,
           Edged with poplar pale."

  [69] Odyssey, xiii. 236. &c.

  [70] Educated, as we shall see hereafter, first in this school,
       Turner gave the hackneyed composition a strange power and
       freshness, in his Glaucus and Scylla.



§ 1. IN our examination of the spirit of classical landscape, we
were obliged to confine ourselves to what is left to us in written
description. Some interesting results might indeed have been
obtained by examining the Egyptian and Ninevite landscape sculpture,
but in nowise conclusive enough to be worth the pains of the
inquiry; for the landscape of sculpture is necessarily confined in
range, and usually inexpressive of the complete feelings of the
workman, being introduced rather to explain the place and
circumstances of events, than for its own sake. In the Middle Ages,
however, the case is widely different. We have written landscape,
sculptured landscape, and painted landscape, all bearing united
testimony to the tone of the national mind in almost every
remarkable locality of Europe.

§ 2. That testimony, taken in its breadth, is very curiously
conclusive. It marks the mediæval mind as agreeing altogether with
the ancients, in holding that flat land, brooks, and groves of
aspens, compose the pleasant places of the earth, and that rocks and
mountains are, for inhabitation, altogether to be reprobated and
detested; but as disagreeing with the classical mind totally in this
other most important respect, that the pleasant flat land is never a
ploughed field, nor a rich lotus meadow good for pasture, but
_garden_ ground covered with flowers, and divided by fragrant
hedges, with a castle in the middle of it. The aspens are delighted
in, not because they are good for "coach-making men" to make
cart-wheels of, but because they are shady and graceful; and the
fruit-trees, covered with delicious fruit, especially apple and
orange, occupy still more important positions in the scenery.
Singing-birds--not "sea-crows," but nightingales[71]--perch on every
bough; and the ideal occupation of mankind is not to cultivate
either the garden or the meadow, but to gather roses and eat oranges
in the one, and ride out hawking over the other.

Finally, mountain scenery, though considered as disagreeable for
general inhabitation, is always introduced as being proper to
meditate in, or to encourage communion with higher beings; and in
the ideal landscape of daily life, mountains are considered
agreeable things enough, so that they be far enough away.

In this great change there are three vital points to be noticed.

[Sidenote: § 3. Three essential characters: 1. Pride in idleness.]

The first, the disdain of agricultural pursuits by the nobility; a
fatal change, and one gradually bringing about the ruin of that
nobility. It is expressed in the mediæval landscape by the eminently
pleasurable and horticultural character of everything; by the
fences, hedges, castle walls, and masses of useless, but lovely
flowers, especially roses. The knights and ladies are represented
always as singing, or making love, in these pleasant places. The
idea of setting an old knight, like Laertes (whatever his state of
fallen fortune), "with thick gloves on to keep his hands from the
thorns," to prune a row of vines, would have been regarded as the
most monstrous violation of the decencies of life; and a senator,
once detected in the home employments of Cincinnatus, could, I
suppose, thenceforward hardly have appeared in society.

[Sidenote: § 4. 2. Poetical observance of nature.]

The second vital point is the evidence of a more sentimental
enjoyment of external nature. A Greek, wishing really to enjoy
himself, shut himself into a beautiful atrium, with an excellent
dinner, and a society of philosophical or musical friends. But a
mediæval knight went into his pleasance, to gather roses and hear
the birds sing; or rode out hunting or hawking. His evening feast,
though riotous enough sometimes, was not the height of his day's
enjoyment; and if the attractions of the world are to be shown
typically to him, as opposed to the horrors of death, they are never
represented by a full feast in a chamber, but by a delicate dessert
in an orange grove, with musicians under the trees; or a ride on a
May morning, hawk on fist.

This change is evidently a healthy, and a very interesting one.

[Sidenote: § 5. 3. Disturbed conscience.]

The third vital point is the marked sense that this hawking and
apple-eating are not altogether right; that there is something else
to be done in the world than that; and that the mountains, as
opposed to the pleasant garden-ground, are places where that other
something may best be learned;--which is evidently a piece of
infinite and new respect for the mountains, and another healthy
change in the tone of the human heart.

Let us glance at the signs and various results of these changes, one
by one.

[Sidenote: § 6. Derivative characters: 1. Love of flowers.]

The two first named, evil and good as they are, are very closely
connected. The more poetical delight in external nature proceeds
just from the fact that it is no longer looked upon with the eye of
the farmer; and in proportion as the herbs and flowers cease to be
regarded as useful, they are felt to be charming. Leeks are not now
the most important objects in the garden, but lilies and roses; the
herbage which a Greek would have looked at only with a view to the
number of horses it would feed, is regarded by the mediæval knight
as a green carpet for fair feet to dance upon, and the beauty of its
softness and color is proportionally felt by him; while the brook,
which the Greek rejoiced to dismiss into a reservoir under the
palace threshold, would be, by the mediæval, distributed into
pleasant pools, or forced into fountains; and regarded alternately
as a mirror for fair faces, and a witchery to ensnare the sunbeams
and the rainbow.

[Sidenote: § 7. 2. Less definite gratitude to God.]

And this change of feeling involves two others, very important. When
the flowers and grass were regarded as means of life, and therefore
(as the thoughtful laborer of the soil must always regard them) with
the reverence due to those gifts of God which were most necessary to
his existence; although their own beauty was less felt, their
proceeding from the Divine hand was more seriously acknowledged, and
the herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree yielding fruit, though in
themselves less admired, were yet solemnly connected in the heart
with the reverence of Ceres, Pomona, or Pan. But when the sense of
these necessary uses was more or less lost, among the upper classes,
by the delegation of the art of husbandry to the hands of the
peasant, the flower and fruit, whose bloom or richness thus became
a mere source of pleasure, were regarded with less solemn sense of
the Divine gift in them; and were converted rather into toys than
treasures, chance gifts for gaiety, rather than promised rewards of
labor; so that while the Greek could hardly have trodden the formal
furrow, or plucked the clusters from the trellised vine, without
reverent thoughts of the deities of field and leaf, who gave the
seed to fructify, and the bloom to darken, the mediæval knight
plucked the violet to wreathe in his lady's hair, or strewed the
idle rose on the turf at her feet, with little sense of anything in
the nature that gave them, but a frail, accidental, involuntary
exuberance; while also the Jewish sacrificial system being now done
away, as well as the Pagan mythology, and, with it, the whole
conception of meat offering or firstfruits offering, the chiefest
seriousness of all the thoughts connected with the gifts of nature
faded from the minds of the classes of men concerned with art and
literature; while the peasant, reduced to serf level, was incapable
of imaginative thought, owing to his want of general cultivation.
But on the other hand, exactly in proportion as the idea of definite
spiritual presence in material nature was lost, the mysterious sense
of _unaccountable_ life in the things themselves would be increased,
and the mind would instantly be laid open to all those currents of
fallacious, but pensive and pathetic sympathy, which we have seen to
be characteristic of modern times.

[Sidenote: § 3. Gloom caused by enforced solitude.]

Farther: a singular difference would necessarily result from the far
greater loneliness of baronial life, deprived as it was of all
interest in agricultural pursuits. The palace of a Greek leader in
early times might have gardens, fields, and farms around it, but was
sure to be near some busy city or sea-port: in later times, the city
itself became the principal dwelling-place, and the country was
visited only to see how the farm went on, or traversed in a line of
march. Far other was the life of the mediæval baron, nested on his
solitary jut of crag; entering into cities only occasionally for some
grave political or warrior's purpose, and, for the most part, passing
the years of his life in lion-like isolation; the village inhabited by
his retainers straggling indeed about the slopes of the rocks at his
feet, but his own dwelling standing gloomily apart, between them and
the uncompanionable clouds, commanding, from sunset to sunrise, the
flowing flame of some calm unvoyaged river, and the endless undulation
of the untraversable hills. How different must the thoughts about
nature have been, of the noble who lived among the bright marble
porticos of the Greek groups of temple or palace,--in the midst of a
plain covered with corn and olives, and by the shore of a sparkling
and freighted sea,--from those of the master of some mountain
promontory in the green recesses of Northern Europe, watching night by
night, from amongst his heaps of storm-broken stone, rounded into
towers, the lightning of the lonely sea flash round the sands of
Harlech, or the mists changing their shapes forever, among the
changeless pines, that fringe the crests of Jura.

[Sidenote: § 9. And frequent pilgrimage.]

Nor was it without similar effect on the minds of men that their
journeyings and pilgrimages became more frequent than those of the
Greek, the extent of ground traversed in the course of them larger,
and the mode of travel more companionless. To the Greek, a voyage to
Egypt, or the Hellespont, was the subject of lasting fame and fable,
and the forests of the Danube and the rocks of Sicily closed for him
the gates of the intelligible world. What parts of that narrow world
he crossed were crossed with fleets or armies; the camp always
populous on the plain, and the ships drawn in cautious symmetry around
the shore. But to the mediæval knight, from Scottish moor to Syrian
sand, the world was one great exercise ground, or field of adventure;
the staunch pacing of his charger penetrated the pathlessness of
outmost forest, and sustained the sultriness of the most secret
desert. Frequently alone,--or, if accompanied, for the most part only
by retainers of lower rank, incapable of entering into complete
sympathy with any of his thoughts,--he must have been compelled often
to enter into dim companionship with the silent nature around him, and
must assuredly sometimes have talked to the wayside flowers of his
love, and to the fading clouds of his ambition.

[Sidenote: 4. Dread of mountains.]

§ 10. But, on the other hand, the idea of retirement from the world
for the sake of self-mortification, of combat with demons, or
communion with angels, and with their King,--authoritatively
commended as it was to all men by the continual practice of Christ
Himself,--gave to all mountain solitude at once a sanctity and a
terror, in the mediæval mind, which were altogether different from
anything that it had possessed in the un-Christian periods. On the
one side, there was an idea of sanctity attached to rocky
wilderness, because it had always been among hills that the Deity
had manifested himself most intimately to men, and to the hills that
His saints had nearly always retired for meditation, for especial
communion with Him, and to prepare for death. Men acquainted with
the history of Moses, alone at Horeb, or with Israel at Sinai,--of
Elijah by the brook Cherith, and in the Horeb cave; of the deaths of
Moses and Aaron on Hor and Nebo; of the preparation of Jephthah's
daughter for her death among the Judea Mountains; of the continual
retirement of Christ Himself to the mountains for prayer, His
temptation in the desert of the Dead Sea, His sermon on the hills of
Capernaum, His transfiguration on the crest of Tabor, and his
evening and morning walks over Olivet for the four or five days
preceding His crucifixion,--were not likely to look with irreverent
or unloving eyes upon the blue hills that girded their golden
horizon, or drew upon them the mysterious clouds out of the height
of the darker heaven. But with this impression of their greater
sanctity was involved also that of a peculiar terror. In all
this,--their haunting by the memories of prophets, the presences of
angels, and the everlasting thoughts and words of the Redeemer,--the
mountain ranges seemed separated from the active world, and only to
be fitly approached by hearts which were condemnatory of it. Just in
so much as it appeared necessary for the noblest men to retire to
the hill-recesses before their missions could be accomplished or
their spirits perfected, in so far did the daily world seem by
comparison to be pronounced profane and dangerous; and to those who
loved that world, and its work, the mountains were thus voiceful
with perpetual rebuke, and necessarily contemplated with a kind of
pain and fear, such as a man engrossed by vanity feels at being by
some accident forced to hear a startling sermon, or to assist at a
funeral service. Every association of this kind was deepened by the
practice and the precept of the time; and thousands of hearts,
which might otherwise have felt that there was loveliness in the
wild landscape, shrank from it in dread, because they knew that the
monk retired to it for penance, and the hermit for contemplation.
The horror which the Greek had felt for hills only when they were
uninhabitable and barren, attached itself now to many of the
sweetest spots of earth; the feeling was conquered by political
interests, but never by admiration; military ambition seized the
frontier rock, or maintained itself in the unassailable pass; but it
was only for their punishment, or in their despair, that men
consented to tread the crocused slopes of the Chartreuse, or the
soft glades and dewy pastures of Vallombrosa.

§ 11. In all these modifications of temper and principle there
appears much which tends to passionate, affectionate, or awe-struck
observance of the features of natural scenery, closely resembling,
in all but this superstitious dread of mountains, our feelings at
the present day. But _one_ character which the mediævals had in
common with the ancients, and that exactly the most eminent
character in both, opposed itself steadily to all the feelings we
have hitherto been examining,--the admiration, namely, and constant
watchfulness, of human beauty. Exercised in nearly the same manner
as the Greeks, from their youth upwards, their countenances were
cast even in a higher mould; for, although somewhat less regular in
feature, and affected by minglings of Northern bluntness and
stolidity of general expression, together with greater thinness of
lip and shaggy formlessness of brow, these less sculpturesque
features were, nevertheless, touched with a seriousness and
refinement proceeding first from the modes of thought inculcated by
the Christian religion, and secondly from their more romantic and
various life. Hence a degree of personal beauty, both male and
female, was attained in the Middle Ages, with which classical
periods could show nothing for a moment comparable; and this beauty
was set forth by the most perfect splendor, united with grace, in
dress, which the human race have hitherto invented. The strength of
their art-genius was directed in great part to this object; and
their best workmen and most brilliant fanciers were employed in
wreathing the mail or embroidering the robe. The exquisite arts of
enamelling and chasing metal enabled them to make the armor as
radiant and delicate as the plumage of a tropical bird; and the most
various and vivid imaginations were displayed in the alternations of
color, and fiery freaks of form, on shield and crest; so that of all
the beautiful things which the eyes of men could fall upon, in the
world about them, the most beautiful must have been a young knight
riding out in morning sunshine, and in faithful hope.

      "His broad, clear brow in sunlight glowed;
      On burnished hooves his war-horse trode;
      From underneath his helmet flowed
      His coal-black curls, as on he rode.
      All in the blue, unclouded weather,
      Thick jewelled shone the saddle leather;
      The helmet and the helmet feather
      Burned like one burning flame together;
      And the gemmy bridle glittered free,
      Like to some branch of stars we see
      Hung in the golden galaxy."

[Sidenote: § 12. 5. care for human beauty.]

Now, the effect of this superb presence of human beauty on men in
general was, exactly as it had been in Greek times, first, to turn
their thoughts and glances in great part away from all other beauty
but that, and to make the grass of the field take to them always more
or less the aspect of a carpet to dance upon, a lawn to tilt upon, or
a serviceable crop of hay; and, secondly, in what attention they paid
to this lower nature, to make them dwell exclusively on what was
graceful, symmetrical, and bright in color. All that was rugged,
rough, dark, wild, unterminated, they rejected at once, as the domain
of "salvage men" and monstrous giants: all that they admired was
tender, bright, balanced, enclosed, symmetrical--only symmetrical in
the noble and free sense: for what we moderns call "symmetry," or
"balance," differs as much from mediæval symmetry as the poise of a
grocer's scales, or the balance of an Egyptian mummy with its hands
tied to its sides, does from the balance of a knight on his horse,
striking with the battle-axe, at the gallop; the mummy's balance
looking wonderfully perfect, and yet sure to be one-sided if you weigh
the dust of it,--the knight's balance swaying and changing like the
wind, and yet as true and accurate as the laws of life.

[Sidenote: § 13. 6. Symmetrical government of design.]

And this love of symmetry was still farther enhanced by the peculiar
duties required of art at the time; for, in order to fit a flower or
leaf for inlaying in armor, or showing clearly in glass, it was
absolutely necessary to take away its complexity, and reduce it to
the condition of a disciplined and orderly pattern; and this the
more, because, for all military purposes, the device, whatever it
was, had to be distinctly intelligible at extreme distance. That it
should be a good imitation of nature, when seen near, was of no
moment; but it was of highest moment that when first the knight's
banner flashed in the sun at the turn of the mountain road, or rose,
torn and bloody, through the drift of the battle dust, it should
still be discernible what the bearing was.

      "At length, the freshening western blast
      Aside the shroud of battle cast;
      And first the ridge of mingled spears
      Above the brightening cloud appears;
      And in the smoke the pennons flew,
      As in the storm the white sea-mew;
      Then marked they, dashing broad and far
      The broken billows of the war.
      Wide raged the battle on the plain;
      Spears shook, and falchions flashed amain,
      Fell England's arrow-flight like rain;
      Crests rose, and stooped, and rose again,
          Wild and disorderly.
      Amidst the scene of tumult, high,
      _They saw Lord Marmion's falcon fly,
      And stainless Tunstall's banner white,
      And Edmund Howard's lion bright._"

It was needed, not merely that they should see it was a falcon, but
Lord Marmion's falcon; not only a lion, but the Howard's lion.
Hence, to the one imperative end of _intelligibility_, every minor
resemblance to nature was sacrificed, and above all, the _curved_,
which are chiefly the confusing lines; so that the straight,
elongated back, doubly elongated tail, projected and separate claws,
and other rectilinear unnaturalnesses of form, became the means by
which the leopard was, in midst of the mist and storm of battle,
distinguished from the dog, or the lion from the wolf; the most
admirable fierceness and vitality being, in spite of these
necessary changes (so often shallowly sneered at by the modern
workman), obtained by the old designer.

Farther, it was necessary to the brilliant harmony of color, and
clear setting forth of everything, that all confusing shadows, all
dim and doubtful lines should be rejected: hence at once an utter
denial of natural appearances by the great body of workmen; and a
calm rest in a practice of representation which would make either
boar or lion blue, scarlet, or golden, according to the device of
the knight, or the need of such and such a color in that place of
the pattern; and which wholly denied that any substance ever cast a
shadow, or was affected by any kind of obscurity.

[Sidenote: § 14. 7. Therefore, inaccurate rendering of nature.]

All this was in its way, and for its end, absolutely right, admirable,
and delightful; and those who despise it, laugh at it, or derive no
pleasure from it, are utterly ignorant of the highest principles of
art, and are mere tyros and beginners in the practice of color. But,
admirable though it might be, one necessary result of it was a farther
withdrawal of the observation of men from the refined and subtle
beauty of nature; so that the workman who first was led to think
_lightly_ of natural beauty, as being subservient to human, was next
led to think _inaccurately_ of natural beauty, because he had
continually to alter and simplify it for his practical purposes.

§ 15. Now, assembling all these different sources of the peculiar
mediæval feeling towards nature in one view, we have:

    1st. Love of the garden instead of love of the farm, leading
    to a sentimental contemplation of nature, instead of a
    practical and agricultural one. (§§ 3. 4. 6.)

    2nd. Loss of sense of actual Divine presence, leading to
    fancies of fallacious animation, in herbs, flowers, clouds,
    &c. (§ 7.)

    3rd. Perpetual, and more or less undisturbed, companionship
    with wild nature. (§§ 8. 9.)

    4th. Apprehension of demoniacal and angelic presence among
    mountains, leading to a reverent dread of them. (§ 10.)

    5th. Principalness of delight in human beauty, leading to
    comparative contempt of natural objects. (§ 11.)

    6th. Consequent love of order, light, intelligibility, and
    symmetry, leading to dislike of the wildness, darkness, and
    mystery of nature. (§ 12.)

    7th. Inaccuracy of observance of nature, induced by the
    habitual practice of change on its forms. (§ 13.)

From these mingled elements, we should necessarily expect to find
resulting, as the characteristic of mediæval landscape art, compared
with Greek, a far higher sentiment about it, and affection for it,
more or less subdued by still greater respect for the loveliness of
man, and therefore subordinated entirely to human interests; mingled
with curious traces of terror, piety, or superstition, and cramped
by various formalisms,--some wise and necessary, some feeble, and
some exhibiting needless ignorance and inaccuracy.

Under these lights, let us examine the facts.

§ 16. The landscape of the Middle Ages is represented in a central
manner by the illuminations of the MSS. of Romances, executed about
the middle of the fifteenth century. On one side of these stands the
earlier landscape work, more or less treated as simple decoration;
on the other, the later landscape work, becoming more or less
affected with modern ideas and modes of imitation.

These central fifteenth century landscapes are almost invariably
composed of a grove or two of tall trees, a winding river, and a
castle, or a garden: the peculiar feature of both these last being
_trimness_; the artist always dwelling especially on the fences;
wreathing the espaliers indeed prettily with sweet-briar, and
putting pots of orange-trees on the tops of the walls, but taking
great care that there shall be no loose bricks in the one, nor
broken stakes in the other,--the trouble and ceaseless warfare of
the times having rendered security one of the first elements of
pleasantness, and making it impossible for any artist to conceive
Paradise but as surrounded by a moat, or to distinguish the road to
it better than by its narrow wicket gate, and watchful porter.

§ 17. One of these landscapes is thus described by Macaulay: "We
have an exact square, enclosed by the rivers Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel,
and Euphrates, each with a convenient bridge in the centre;
rectangular beds of flowers; a long canal neatly bricked and railed
in; the tree of knowledge, clipped like one of the limes behind the
Tuileries, standing in the centre of the grand alley; the snake
turned round it, the man on the right hand, the woman on the left,
and the beasts drawn up in an exact circle round them."

All this is perfectly true; and seems in the description very
curiously foolish. The only curious folly, however, in the matter is
the exquisite _naïveté_ of the historian, in supposing that the
quaint landscape indicates in the understanding of the painter so
marvellous an inferiority to his own; whereas, it is altogether his
own wit that is at fault, in not comprehending that nations, whose
youth had been decimated among the sands and serpents of Syria, knew
probably nearly as much about Eastern scenery as youths trained in
the schools of the modern Royal Academy; and that this curious
symmetry was entirely symbolic, only more or less modified by the
various instincts which I have traced above. Mr. Macaulay is
evidently quite unaware that the serpent with the human head, and
body twisted round the tree, was the universally accepted symbol of
the evil angel, from the dawn of art up to Michael Angelo; that the
greatest sacred artists invariably place the man on the one side of
the tree, the woman on the other, in order to denote the enthroned
and balanced dominion about to fall by temptation; that the beasts
are ranged (when they _are_ so, though this is much more seldom the
case,) in a circle round them, expressly to mark that they were then
not wild, but obedient, intelligent, and orderly beasts; and that
the four rivers are trenched and enclosed on the four sides, to mark
that the waters which now wander in waste, and destroy in fury, had
then for their principal office to "water the garden" of God. The
description is, however, sufficiently apposite and interesting, as
bearing upon what I have noted respecting the eminent _fence_-loving
spirit of the mediævals.

§ 18. Together with this peculiar formality, we find an infinite
delight in drawing pleasant flowers, always articulating and outlining
them completely; the sky is always blue, having only a few delicate
white clouds in it, and in the distance are blue mountains, very far
away, if the landscape is to be simply delightful; but brought near,
and divided into quaint overhanging rocks, if it is intended to be
meditative, or a place of saintly seclusion. But the whole of it
always,--flowers, castles, brooks, clouds, and rocks,--subordinate to
the human figures in the foreground, and painted for no other end than
that of explaining their adventures and occupations.

[Illustration: 7. Botany of 13th Century. (Apple-tree and Cyclamen)]

§ 19. Before the idea of landscape had been thus far developed, the
representations of it had been purely typical; the objects which had
to be shown in order to explain the scene of the event, being firmly
outlined, usually on a pure golden or chequered color background,
not on sky. The change from the golden background, (characteristic
of the finest thirteenth century work) and the colored chequer
(which in like manner belongs to the finest fourteenth) to the blue
sky, gradated to the horizon, takes place early in the fifteenth
century, and is the _crisis_ of change in the spirit of mediæval
art. Strictly speaking, we might divide the art of Christian times
into two great masses--Symbolic and Imitative;--the symbolic,
reaching from the earliest periods down to the close of the
fourteenth century, and the imitative from that close to the present
time; and, then, the most important circumstance indicative of the
culminating point, or turn of tide, would be this of the change from
chequered background to sky background. The uppermost figure in
Plate 7. opposite, representing the tree of knowledge, taken from a
somewhat late thirteenth century Hebrew manuscript (Additional
11,639) in the British Museum, will at once illustrate Mr.
Macaulay's "serpent turned round the tree," and the mode of
introducing the chequer background, will enable the reader better to
understand the peculiar feeling of the period, which no more
intended the formal walls or streams for an imitative representation
of the Garden of Eden, than these chequers for an imitation of sky.

§ 20. The moment the sky is introduced (and it is curious how
perfectly it is done _at once_, many manuscripts presenting, in
alternate pages, chequered backgrounds, and deep blue skies
exquisitely gradated to the horizon)--the moment, I say, the sky is
introduced, the spirit of art becomes for evermore changed, and
thenceforward it gradually proposes imitation more and more as an
end, until it reaches the Turnerian landscape. This broad division
into two schools would therefore be the most true and accurate we
could employ, but not the most convenient. For the great mediæval
art lies in a cluster about the culminating point, including
symbolism on one side, and imitation on the other, and extending
like a radiant cloud upon the mountain peak of ages, partly down
both sides of it, from the year 1200 to 1500; the brightest part of
the cloud leaning a little backwards, and poising itself between
1250 and 1350. And therefore the most convenient arrangement is into
Romanesque and barbaric art, up to 1200,--mediæval art, 1200 to
1500,--and modern art, from 1500 downwards. But it is only in the
earlier or symbolic mediæval art, reaching up to the close of the
fourteenth century, that the peculiar modification of natural forms
for decorative purposes is seen in its perfection, with all its
beauty, and all its necessary shortcomings; the minds of men being
accurately balanced between that honor for the superior human form
which they shared with the Greek ages, and the sentimental love of
nature which was peculiar to their own. The expression of the two
feelings will be found to vary according to the material and place
of the art; in painting, the conventional forms are more adopted, in
order to obtain definition, and brilliancy of color, while in
sculpture the life of nature is often rendered with a love and
faithfulness which put modern art to shame. And in this earnest
contemplation of the natural facts, united with an endeavor to
simplify, for clear expression, the results of that contemplation,
the ornamental artists arrived at two abstract conclusions about
form, which are highly curious and interesting.

§ 21. They saw, first, that a leaf might always be considered as a
sudden expansion of the stem that bore it; an uncontrollable
expression of delight, on the part of the twig, that spring had come,
shown in a fountain-like expatiation of its tender green heart into
the air. They saw that in this violent proclamation of its delight and
liberty, whereas the twig had, until that moment, a disposition only
to grow quietly forwards, it expressed its satisfaction and extreme
pleasure in sunshine by springing out to right and left. Let _a b_,
Fig. 1. Plate 8., be the twig growing forward in the direction from
_a_ to _b_. It reaches the point _b_, and then--spring coming,--not
being able to contain itself, it bursts out in every direction, even
springing backwards at first for joy; but as this backward
direction is contrary to its own proper fate and nature, it cannot go
on so long, and the length of each rib into which it separates is
proportioned accurately to the degree in which the proceedings of that
rib are in harmony with the natural destiny of the plant. Thus the rib
_c_, entirely contradictory, by the direction of his life and energy,
of the general intentions to the tree, is but a short-lived rib; _d_,
not quite so opposite to his fate, lives longer; _e_, accommodating
himself still more to the spirit of progress, attains a greater length
still; and the largest rib of all is the one who has not yielded at
all to the erratic disposition of the others when spring came, but,
feeling quite as happy about the spring as they did, nevertheless took
no holiday, minded his business, and grew straightforward.

[Illustration: 8. The Growth of Leaves.]

§ 22. Fig. 6. in the same plate, which shows the disposition of the
ribs in the leaf of an American Plane, exemplifies the principle
very accurately; it is indeed more notably seen in this than in most
leaves, because the ribs at the base have evidently had a little
fraternal quarrel about their spring holiday; and the more
gaily-minded ones, getting together into trios on each side, have
rather pooh-poohed and laughed at the seventh brother in the middle,
who wanted to go on regularly, and attend to his work. Nevertheless,
though thus starting quite by himself in life, this seventh brother,
quietly pushing on in the right direction, lives longest, and makes
the largest fortune, and the triple partnerships on the right and
left meet with a very minor prosperity.

§ 23. Now if we inclose Fig. 1. in Plate 8. with two curves passing
through the extremities of the ribs, we get Fig. 2., the central type
of all leaves. Only this type is modified of course in a thousand ways
by the life of the plant. If it be marsh or aquatic, instead of
springing out in twigs, it is almost certain to expand in soft
currents, as the liberated stream does at its mouth into the ocean,
Fig. 3. (Alisma Plantago); if it be meant for one of the crowned and
lovely trees of the earth, it will separate into stars, and each ray
of the leaf will form a ray of light in the crown, Fig. 5.
(Horsechestnut); and if it be a commonplace tree, rather prudent and
practical than imaginative, it will not expand all at once, but throw
out the ribs every now and then along the central rib, like a
merchant taking his occasional and restricted holiday, Fig. 4. (Elm).

§ 24. Now in the bud, where all these proceedings on the leaf's part
are first imagined, the young leaf is generally (always?) doubled up in
embryo, so as to present the profile of the half-leaves, as Fig. 7.,
only in exquisite complexity of arrangement; Fig. 9., for instance, is
the profile of the leaf-bud of a rose. Hence the general arrangement of
line represented by Fig. 8. (in which the lower line is slightly curved
to express the bending life in the spine) is everlastingly typical of
the expanding powers of joyful vegetative youth; and it is of all
simple forms the most exquisitely delightful to the human mind. It
presents itself in a thousand different proportions and variations in
the buds and profiles of leaves; those being always the loveliest in
which, either by accidental perspective of position, or inherent
character in the tree, it is most frequently presented to the eye. The
branch of bramble, for instance, Fig. 10. at the bottom of Plate 8.,
owes its chief beauty to the perpetual recurrence of this typical form;
and we shall find presently the enormous importance of it, even in
mountain ranges, though, in these, _falling_ force takes the place of
_vital_ force.

[Illustration: FIG. 3.]

§ 25. This abstract conclusion the great thirteenth century artists
were the first to arrive at; and whereas, before their time,
ornament had been constantly refined into intricate and
subdivided symmetries, they were content with this simple form as
the termination of its most important features. Fig. 3., which is a
scroll out of a Psalter executed in the latter half of the
thirteenth century, is a sufficient example of a practice at that
time absolutely universal.

[Illustration: 9. Botany of the 14th Century. From the Prayer-book of
Yolande of Navarre.]

§ 26. The second great discovery of the Middle Ages in floral
ornament, was that, in order completely to express the law of
subordination among the leaf-ribs, two ribs were necessary, _and no
more_, on each side of the leaf, forming a series of three with the
central one, because proportion is between three terms at least.

[Illustration: FIG. 4.]

That is to say, when they had only three ribs altogether, as _a_,
Fig. 4., no _law_ of relation was discernible between the ribs, or
the leaflets they bore; but by the addition of a third on each
side as at _b_, proportion instantly was expressible, whether
arithmetical or geometrical, or of any other kind. Hence the
adoption of forms more or less approximating to that at _c_ (young
ivy), or _d_ (wild geranium), as the favorite elements of their
floral ornament, those leaves being in their disposition of masses,
the simplest which can express a perfect law of proportion, just as
the outline Fig. 7. Plate 8. is the simplest which can express a
perfect law of growth.

Plate 9. opposite gives, in rude outline, the arrangement of the
border of one of the pages of a missal in my own possession, executed
for the Countess Yolande of Flanders,[72] in the latter half of the
fourteenth century, and furnishing, in exhaustless variety, the most
graceful examples I have ever seen of the favorite decoration at the
period, commonly now known as the "Ivy leaf" pattern.

§ 27. In thus reducing these two everlasting laws of beauty to their
simplest possible exponents, the mediæval workmen were the first to
discern and establish the principles of decorative art to the end of
time, nor of decorative art merely, but of mass arrangement in
general. For the members of any great composition, arranged about a
centre, are always reducible to the law of the ivy leaf, the best
cathedral entrances having five porches corresponding in
proportional purpose to its five lobes (three being an imperfect,
and seven a superfluous number); while the loveliest groups of lines
attainable in any pictorial composition are always based on the
section of the leaf-bud, Fig. 7. Plate 8., or on the relation of its
ribs to the convex curve enclosing them.

§ 28. These discoveries of ultimate truth are, I believe, never made
philosophically, but instinctively; so that wherever we find a high
abstract result of the kind, we may be almost sure it has been the
work of the penetrative imagination, acting under the influence of
strong affection. Accordingly, when we enter on our botanical
inquiries, I shall have occasion to show with what tender and loving
fidelity to nature the masters of the thirteenth century always
traced the leading lines of their decorations, either in
missal-painting or sculpture, and how totally in this respect their
methods of subduing, for the sake of distinctness, the natural forms
they loved so dearly, differ from the iron formalisms to which the
Greeks, careless of all that was not completely divine or completely
human, reduced the thorn of the acanthus, and softness of the lily.
Nevertheless, in all this perfect and loving decorative art, we have
hardly any careful references to other landscape features than herbs
and flowers; mountains, water, and clouds are introduced so rudely,
that the representations of them can never be received for anything
else than letters or signs. Thus the _sign_ of clouds, in the
thirteenth century, is an undulating band, usually in painting, of
blue edged with white, in sculpture, wrought so as to resemble very
nearly the folds of a curtain closely tied, and understood for
clouds only by its position, as surrounding angels or saints in
heaven, opening to souls ascending at the Last Judgment, or forming
canopies over the Saviour or the Virgin. Water is represented by
zigzag lines, nearly resembling those employed for clouds, but
distinguished, in sculpture, by having fish in it; in painting, both
by fish and a more continuous blue or green color. And when these
unvaried symbols are associated under the influence of that love of
firm fence, moat, and every other means of definition which we have
seen to be one of the prevailing characteristics of the mediæval
mind, it is not possible for us to conceive, through the rigidity of
the signs employed, what were the real feelings of the workman or
spectator about the natural landscape. We see that the thing carved
or painted is not intended in any wise to imitate the truth, or
convey to us the feelings which the workman had in contemplating the
truth. He has got a way of talking about it so definite and cold,
and tells us with his chisel so calmly that the knight had a castle
to attack, or the saint a river to cross dryshod, without making the
smallest effort to describe pictorially either castle or river, that
we are left wholly at fault as to the nature of the emotion with
which he contemplated the real objects. But that emotion, as the
intermediate step between the feelings of the Grecian and the
Modern, it must be our aim to ascertain as clearly as possible; and,
therefore, finding it not at this period completely expressed in
visible art, we must, as we did with the Greeks, take up the written
landscape instead, and examine this mediæval sentiment as we find it
embodied in the poem of Dante.

§ 29. The thing that must first strike us in this respect, as we
turn our thoughts to the poem, is, unquestionably, the _formality_
of its landscape.

Milton's effort, in all that he tells us of his Inferno, is to make
it indefinite; Dante's, to make it _definite_. Both, indeed,
describe it as entered through gates; but, within the gate, all is
wild and fenceless with Milton, having indeed its four rivers,--the
last vestige of the mediæval tradition,--but rivers which flow
through a waste of mountain and moorland, and by "many a frozen,
many a fiery Alp." But Dante's Inferno is accurately separated into
circles drawn with well-pointed compasses; mapped and properly
surveyed in every direction, trenched in a thoroughly good style of
engineering from depth to depth, and divided in the "_accurate_
middle" (dritto mezzo) of its deepest abyss, into a concentric
series of ten moats and embankments, like those about a castle, with
bridges from each embankment to the next; precisely in the manner of
those bridges over Hiddekel and Euphrates, which Mr. Macaulay thinks
so innocently designed, apparently not aware that he is also
laughing at Dante. These larger fosses are of rock, and the bridges
also; but as he goes further into detail, Dante tells us of various
minor fosses and embankments, in which he anxiously points out to us
not only the formality, but the neatness and perfectness, of the
stonework. For instance, in describing the river Phlegethon, he
tells us that it was "paved with stone at the bottom, and at the
sides, and _over the edges of the sides_," just as the water is at
the baths of Bulicame; and for fear we should think this embankment
at all _larger_ than it really was, Dante adds, carefully, that it
was made just like the embankments of Ghent or Bruges against the
sea, or those in Lombardy which bank the Brenta, only "not so high,
nor so wide," as any of these. And besides the trenches, we have two
well-built castles; one like Ecbatana, with seven circuits of wall
(and surrounded by a fair stream), wherein the great poets and sages
of antiquity live; and another, a great fortified city with walls of
iron, red-hot, and a deep fosse round it, and full of "grave
citizens,"--the city of Dis.

§ 30. Now, whether this be in what we moderns call "good taste," or
not, I do not mean just now to inquire--Dante having nothing to do
with taste, but with the facts of what he had seen; only, so far as
the imaginative faculty of the two poets is concerned, note that
Milton's vagueness is not the sign of imagination, but of its
absence, so far as it is significative in the matter. For it does
not follow, because Milton did not map out his Inferno as Dante did,
that he _could_ not have done so if he had chosen; only, it was the
easier and less imaginative process to leave it vague than to
define it. Imagination is always the seeing and asserting faculty;
that which obscures or conceals may be judgment, or feeling, but not
invention. The invention, whether good or bad, is in the accurate
engineering, not in the fog and uncertainty.

§ 31. When we pass with Dante from the Inferno to Purgatory, we have
indeed more light and air, but no more liberty; being now confined
on various ledges cut into a mountain side, with a precipice on one
hand and a vertical wall on the other; and, lest here also we should
make any mistake about magnitudes, we are told that the ledges were
eighteen feet wide,[73] and that the ascent from one to the other
was by steps, made like those which go up from Florence to the
church of San Minieto.[74]

Lastly, though in the Paradise there is perfect freedom and infinity
of space, though for trenches we have planets, and for cornices
constellations, yet there is more cadence, procession, and order
among the redeemed souls than any others; they fly, so as to
describe letters and sentences in the air, and rest in circles, like
rainbows, or determinate figures, as of a cross and an eagle; in
which certain of the more glorified natures are so arranged as to
form the eye of the bird, while those most highly blessed are
arranged with their white crowds in leaflets, so as to form the
image of a white rose in the midst of heaven.

§ 32. Thus, throughout the poem, I conceive that the first striking
character of its scenery is intense definition; precisely the
reflection of that definiteness which we have already traced in
pictorial art. But the second point which seems noteworthy is, that
the flat ground and embanked trenches are reserved for the Inferno;
and that the entire territory of the Purgatory is a mountain, thus
marking the sense of that purifying and perfecting influence in
mountains which we saw the mediæval mind was so ready to suggest.
The same general idea is indicated at the very commencement of the
poem, in which Dante is overwhelmed by fear and sorrow in passing
through a dark forest, but revives on seeing the sun touch the top
of a hill, afterwards called by Virgil "the pleasant mount--the
cause and source of all delight."

§ 33. While, however, we find this greater honor paid to mountains, I
think we may perceive a much greater dread and dislike of woods. We
saw that Homer seemed to attach a pleasant idea, for the most part, to
forests; regarding them as sources of wealth and places of shelter;
and we find constantly an idea of sacredness attached to them, as
being haunted especially by the gods; so that even the wood which
surrounds the house of Circe is spoken of as a sacred thicket, or
rather, as a sacred glade, or labyrinth of glades (of the particular
word used I shall have more to say presently); and so the wood is
sought as a kindly shelter by Ulysses, in spite of its wild beasts;
and evidently regarded with great affection by Sophocles, for, in a
passage which is always regarded by readers of Greek tragedy with
peculiar pleasure, the aged and blind Oedipus, brought to rest in "the
sweetest resting-place" in all the neighborhood of Athens, has the
spot described to him as haunted perpetually by nightingales, which
sing "in the green glades and in the dark ivy, and in the
thousand-fruited, sunless, and windless thickets of the god"
(Bacchus); the idea of the complete shelter from wind and sun being
here, as with Ulysses, the uppermost one. After this come the usual
staples of landscape,--narcissus, crocus, plenty of rain, olive trees;
and last, and the greatest boast of all,--"it is a good country for
horses, and conveniently by the sea;" but the prominence and
pleasantness of the thick wood in the thoughts of the writer are very
notable; whereas to Dante the idea of a forest is exceedingly
repulsive, so that, as just noticed, in the opening of his poem, he
cannot express a general despair about life more strongly than by
saying he was lost in a wood so savage and terrible, that "even to
think or speak of it is distress,--it was so bitter,--it was something
next door to death;" and one of the saddest scenes in all the Inferno
is in a forest, of which the trees are haunted by lost souls; while
(with only one exception,) whenever the country is to be beautiful, we
find ourselves coming out into open air and open meadows.

It is quite true that this is partly a characteristic, not merely of
Dante, or of mediæval writers, but of _southern_ writers; for the
simple reason that the forest, being with them higher upon the
hills, and more out of the way than in the north was generally a
type of lonely and savage places; while in England, the
"greenwood," coming up to the very walls of the towns, it was
possible to be "merry in the good greenwood," in a sense which an
Italian could not have understood. Hence Chaucer, Spenser, and
Shakspere send their favorites perpetually to the woods for pleasure
or meditation; and trust their tender Canace, or Rosalind, or
Helena, or Silvia, or Belphoebe, where Dante would have sent no one
but a condemned spirit. Nevertheless, there is always traceable in
the mediæval mind a dread of thick foliage, which was not present to
that of a Greek; so that, even in the north, we have our sorrowful
"children in the wood," and black huntsmen of the Hartz forests, and
such other wood terrors; the principal reason for the difference
being that a Greek, being by no means given to travelling, regarded
his woods as so much valuable property; and if he ever went into
them for pleasure expected to meet one or two gods in the course of
his walk, but no banditti; while a mediæval, much more of a solitary
traveller, and expecting to meet with no gods in the thickets, but
only with thieves, or a hostile ambush, or a bear, besides a great
deal of troublesome ground for his horse, and a very serious chance,
next to a certainty, of losing his way, naturally kept in the open
ground as long as he could, and regarded the forests, in general,
with anything but an eye of favor.

§ 34. These, I think, are the principal points which must strike us,
when we first broadly think of the poem as compared with classical
work. Let us now go a little more into detail.

As Homer gave us an ideal landscape, which even a god might have been
pleased to behold, so Dante gives us, fortunately, an ideal landscape,
which is specially intended for the terrestrial paradise. And it will
doubtless be with some surprise, after our reflections above on the
general tone of Dante's feelings, that we find ourselves here first
entering a _forest_, and that even a _thick_ forest. But there is a
peculiar meaning in this. With any other poet than Dante, it might
have been regarded as a wanton inconsistency. Not so with him: by
glancing back to the two lines which explain the nature of Paradise,
we shall see what he means by it. Virgil tells him, as he enters it,
"Henceforward, take thine own pleasure for guide; thou art beyond the
steep ways, and beyond all Art;"--meaning, that the perfectly purified
and noble human creature, having no pleasure but in right, is past
all effort, and past all _rule_. Art has no existence for such a
being. Hence, the first aim of Dante, in his landscape imagery, is to
show evidence of this perfect liberty, and of the purity and
sinlessness of the new nature, converting pathless ways into happy
ones. So that all those fences and formalisms which had been needed
for him in imperfection, are removed in this paradise; and even the
pathlessness of the wood, the most dreadful thing possible to him in
his days of sin and shortcoming, is now a joy to him in his days of
purity. And as the fencelessness and thicket of sin led to the
fettered and fearful order of eternal punishment, so the fencelessness
and thicket of the free virtue lead to the loving and constellated
order of eternal happiness.

§ 35. This forest, then, is very like that of Colonos in several
respects--in its peace and sweetness, and number of birds; it
differs from it only in letting a light breeze through it, being
therefore somewhat thinner than the Greek wood; the tender lines
which tell of the voices of the birds mingling with the wind, and of
the leaves all turning one way before it, have been more or less
copied by every poet since Dante's time. They are, so far as I know,
the sweetest passage of wood description which exists in literature.

Before, however, Dante has gone far in this wood,--that is to say,
only so far as to have lost sight of the place where he entered it,
or rather, I suppose, of the light under the boughs of the outside
trees, and it must have been a very thin wood indeed if he did not
do this in some quarter of a mile's walk,--he comes to a little
river, three paces over, which bends the blades of grass to the
left, with a meadow on the other side of it; and in this meadow

      "A lady, graced with solitude, who went
        Singing, and setting flower by flower apart,
      By which the path she walked on was besprent.
      'Ah, lady beautiful, that basking art
        In beams of love, if I may trust thy face,
      Which useth to bear witness of the heart,
      Let liking come on thee,' said I, 'to trace
        Thy path a little closer to the shore,
      Where I may reap the hearing of thy lays.
      Thou mindest me, how Proserpine of yore
        Appeared in such a place, what time her mother
      Lost her, and she the spring, for evermore.'
      As, pointing downwards and to one another
        Her feet, a lady bendeth in the dance,
      And barely setteth one before the other,
      Thus, on the scarlet and the saffron glance
        Of flowers, with motion maidenlike she bent
      (Her modest eyelids drooping and askance);
      And there she gave my wishes their content,
        Approaching, so that her sweet melodies
      Arrived upon mine ear with what they meant.
      When first she came amongst the blades, that rise,
        Already wetted, from the goodly river,
      She graced me by the lifting of her eyes."   (CAYLEY.)

§ 36. I have given this passage at length, because, for our
purposes, it is by much the most important, not only in Dante, but
in the whole circle of poetry. This lady, observe, stands on the
opposite side of the little stream, which, presently, she explains
to Dante is Lethe, having power to cause forgetfulness of all evil,
and she stands just among the bent blades of grass at its edge. She
is first seen gathering flower from flower, then "passing
continually the multitudinous flowers through her hands," smiling at
the same time so brightly, that her first address to Dante is to
prevent him from wondering at her, saying, "if he will remember the
verse of the ninety-second Psalm, beginning. 'Delectasti,' he will
know why she is so happy."

And turning to the verse of the Psalm, we find it written, "Thou,
Lord, hast made me glad _through Thy works_. I will triumph _in the
works of Thy hands_;" or, in the very words in which Dante would
read it,--

      "Quia delectasti me, Domine, in factura tua,
      Et in operibus manuum Tuarum exultabo."

§ 37. Now we could not for an instant have had any difficulty in
understanding this, but that, some way farther on in the poem, this
lady is called Matilda, and it is with reason supposed by the
commentators to be the great Countess Matilda of the eleventh
century; notable equally for her ceaseless activity, her brilliant
political genius, her perfect piety, and her deep reverence for the
see of Rome. This Countess Matilda is therefore Dante's guide in
the terrestrial paradise, as Beatrice is afterwards in the
celestial; each of them having a spiritual and symbolic character in
their glorified state, yet retaining their definite personality.

The question is, then, what is the symbolic character of the
Countess Matilda, as the guiding spirit of the terrestrial paradise?
Before Dante had entered this paradise he had rested on a step of
shelving rock, and as he watched the stars he slept, and dreamed,
and thus tells us what he saw:--

      "A lady, young and beautiful, I dreamed,
      Was passing o'er a lea; and, as she came,
      Methought I saw her ever and anon
      Bending to cull the flowers; and thus she sang:
      'Know ye, whoever of my name would ask,
      That I am Leah; for my brow to weave
      A garland, these fair hands unwearied ply;
      To please me at the crystal mirror, here
      I deck me. But my sister Rachel, she
      Before her glass abides the livelong day,
      Her radiant eyes beholding, charmed no less
      Than I with this delightful task. Her joy
      In contemplation, as in labor mine.'"

This vision of Rachel and Leah has been always, and with
unquestionable truth, received as a type of the Active and
Contemplative life, and as an introduction to the two divisions of the
paradise which Dante is about to enter. Therefore the unwearied spirit
of the Countess Matilda is understood to represent the Active life,
which forms the felicity of Earth; and the spirit of Beatrice the
Contemplative life, which forms the felicity of Heaven. This
interpretation appears at first straightforward and certain; but it
has missed count of exactly the most important fact in the two
passages which we have to explain. Observe: Leah gathers the flowers
to decorate _herself_, and delights in _Her Own_ Labor. Rachel sits
silent, contemplating herself, and delights in _Her Own_ Image. These
are the types of the Unglorified Active and Contemplative powers of
Man. But Beatrice and Matilda are the same powers, Glorified. And how
are they Glorified? Leah took delight in her own labor; but
Matilda--"in operibus _manuum Tuarum_"--_in God's labor_: Rachel in
the sight of her own face; Beatrice in the sight of _God's face_.

§ 38. And thus, when afterwards Dante sees Beatrice on her throne, and
prays her that, when he himself shall die, she would receive him with
kindness, Beatrice merely looks down for an instant, and answers with
a single smile, then "towards the eternal fountain turns."

Therefore it is evident that Dante distinguishes in both cases, not
between earth and heaven, but between perfect and imperfect happiness,
whether in earth or heaven. The active life which has only the service
of man for its end, and therefore gathers flowers, with Leah, for its
own decoration, is indeed happy, but not perfectly so; it has only the
happiness of the dream, belonging essentially to the dream of human
life, and passing away with it. But the active life which labors for
the more and more discovery of God's work, is perfectly happy, and is
the life of the terrestrial paradise, being a true foretaste of
heaven, and beginning in earth, as heaven's vestibule. So also the
contemplative life which is concerned with human feeling and thought
and beauty--the life which is in earthly poetry and imagery of noble
earthly emotion--is happy, but it is the happiness of the dream; the
contemplative life which has God's person and love in Christ for its
object, has the happiness of eternity. But because this higher
happiness is also begun here on earth, Beatrice descends to earth; and
when revealed to Dante first, he sees the image of the twofold
personality of Christ reflected in her _eyes_; as the flowers, which
are, to the mediæval heart, the chief work of God, are for ever
passing through Matilda's _hands_.

§ 39. Now, therefore, we see that Dante, as the great prophetic
exponent of the heart of the Middle Ages, has, by the lips of the
spirit of Matilda, declared the mediæval faith,--that all perfect
active life was "the expression of man's delight _in God's work_;"
and that all their political and warlike energy, as fully shown in
the mortal life of Matilda, was yet inferior and impure,--the energy
of the dream,--compared with that which on the opposite bank of
Lethe stood "choosing flower from flower." And what joy and peace
there were in this work is marked by Matilda's being the person who
draws Dante through the stream of Lethe, so as to make him forget
all sin, and all sorrow: throwing her arms round him, she plunges
his head under the waves of it; then draws him through, crying to
him, "_hold me, hold me_" (tiemmi, tiemmi), and so presents him,
thus bathed, free from all painful memory, at the feet of the spirit
of the more heavenly contemplation.

§ 40. The reader will, I think, now see, with sufficient
distinctness, why I called this passage the most important, for our
present purposes, in the whole circle of poetry. For it contains the
first great confession of the discovery by the human race (I mean as
a matter of experience, not of revelation), that their happiness was
not in themselves, and that their labor was not to have their own
service as its chief end. It embodies in a few syllables the
_sealing_ difference between the Greek and the mediæval, in that the
former sought the flower and herb for his own uses, the latter for
God's honor; the former, primarily and on principle, contemplated
his own beauty and the workings of his own mind, and the latter,
primarily and on principle, contemplated Christ's beauty and the
workings of the mind of Christ.

§ 41. I will not at present follow up this subject any farther; it
being enough that we have thus got to the root of it, and have a
great declaration of the central mediæval purpose, whereto we may
return for solution of all future questions. I would only,
therefore, desire the reader now to compare the Stones of Venice,
vol. i. chap. xx. §§ 15. 16.; the Seven Lamps of Architecture, chap.
iv. § 3.; and the second volume of this work, Chap. II. §§ 9. 10.,
and Chap. III. § 10.; that he may, in these several places, observe
how gradually our conclusions are knitting themselves together as we
are able to determine more and more of the successive questions that
come before us: and, finally, to compare the two interesting
passages in Wordsworth, which, without any memory of Dante,
nevertheless, as if by some special ordaining, describe in matters
of modern life exactly the soothing or felicitous powers of the two
active spirits of Dante--Leah and Matilda, Excursion, book v. line
608. to 625., and book vi. line 102. to 214.

§ 42. Having thus received from Dante this great lesson, as to the
spirit in which mediæval landscape is to be understood, what else we
have to note respecting it, as seen in his poem, will be
comparatively straightforward and easy. And first, we have to
observe the place occupied in his mind by _color_. It has already
been shown, in the Stones of Venice, vol. ii. chap. v. §§ 30--34,
that color is the most _sacred_ element of all visible things.
Hence, as the mediæval mind contemplated them first for their
sacredness, we should, beforehand, expect that the first thing it
would seize would be the color; and that we should find its
expressions and renderings of color infinitely more loving and
accurate than among the Greeks.

§ 43. Accordingly, the Greek sense of color seems to have been so
comparatively dim and uncertain, that it is almost impossible to
ascertain what the real idea was which they attached to any word
alluding to hue: and above all, color, though pleasant to their
eyes, as to those of all human beings, seems never to have been
impressive to their feelings. They liked purple, on the whole, the
best; but there was no sense of cheerfulness or pleasantness in one
color, and gloom in another, such as the mediævals had.

For instance, when Achilles goes, in great anger and sorrow, to
complain to Thetis of the scorn done him by Agamemnon, the sea appears
to him "wine-colored." One might think this meant that the sea looked
dark and reddish-purple to him, in a kind of sympathy with his anger.
But we turn to the passage of Sophocles, which has been above
quoted--a passage peculiarly intended to express peace and rest--and
we find that the birds sing among "wine-colored" ivy. The uncertainty
of conception of the hue itself, and entire absence of expressive
character in the word, could hardly be more clearly manifested.

§ 44. Again: I said the Greek liked purple, as a general source of
enjoyment, better than any other color. So he did, and so all healthy
persons who have eye for color, and are unprejudiced about it, do; and
will to the end of time, for a reason presently to be noted. But so
far was this instinctive preference for purple from giving, in the
Greek mind, any consistently cheerful or sacred association to the
color, that Homer constantly calls death "purple death."

§ 45. Again: in the passage of Sophocles, so often spoken of, I said
there was some difficulty respecting a word often translated
"thickets." I believe, myself, it means glades; literally, "going
places" in the woods,--that is to say, places where, either naturally
or by force, the trees separate, so as to give some accessible
avenue. Now, Sophocles tells us the birds sang in these "_green_ going
places;" and we take up the expression gratefully, thinking the old
Greek perceived and enjoyed, as we do, the sweet fall of the eminently
_green_ light through the leaves when they are a little thinner than
in the heart of the wood. But we turn to the tragedy of Ajax, and are
much shaken in our conclusion about the meaning of the word, when we
are told that the body of Ajax is to lie unburied, and be eaten by
sea-birds on the "_green_ sand." The formation, geologically
distinguished by that title, was certainly not known to Sophocles; and
the only conclusion which, it seems to me, we can come to under the
circumstances,--assuming Ariel's[75] authority as to the color of
pretty sand, and the ancient mariner's (or, rather, his hearer's[76])
as to the color of ugly sand, to be conclusive,--is that Sophocles
really did not know green from yellow or brown.

§ 46. Now, without going out of the terrestrial paradise, in which
Dante last left us, we shall be able at once to compare with this
Greek incertitude the precision of the mediæval eye for color. Some
three arrowflights further up into the wood we come to a tall tree,
which is at first barren, but, after some little time, visibly opens
into flowers, of a color "less than that of roses, but more than
that of violets."

It certainly would not be possible, in words, to come nearer to the
_definition_ of the exact hue which Dante meant--that of the
apple-blossom. Had he employed any simple color-phrase, as a "pale
pink," or "violet-pink," or any other such combined expression, he
still could not have completely got at the delicacy of the hue; he
might perhaps have indicated its kind, but not its tenderness; but
by taking the rose-leaf as the type of the delicate red, and then
enfeebling this with the violet grey, he gets, as closely as
language can carry him, to the complete rendering of the vision,
though it is evidently felt by him to be in its perfect beauty
ineffable; and rightly so felt, for of all lovely things which grace
the spring time in our fair temperate zone, I am not sure but this
blossoming of the apple-tree is the fairest. At all events, I find
it associated in my mind with four other kinds of color, certainly
principal among the gifts of the northern earth, namely:

    1st. Bell gentians growing close together, mixed with lilies
    of the valley, on the Jura pastures.

    2nd. Alpine roses with dew upon them, under low rays of
    morning sunshine, touching the tops of the flowers.

    3rd. Bell heather in mass, in full light, at sunset.

    4th. White narcissus (red-centred) in mass, on the Vevay
    pastures, in sunshine, after rain.

And I know not where in the group to place the wreaths of
apple-blossoms, in the Vevay orchards, with the far-off blue of the
lake of Geneva seen between the flowers.

A Greek, however, would have regarded this blossom simply with the
eyes of a Devonshire farmer, as bearing on the probable price of
cider, and would have called it red, cerulean, purple, white,
hyacinthine, or generally "aglaos," agreeable, as happened to suit
his verse.

§ 47. Again: we have seen how fond the Greek was of composing his
paradises of rather damp grass; but that in this fondness for grass
there was always an undercurrent of consideration for his horses; and
the characters in it which pleased him most were its depth and
freshness; not its color. Now, if we remember carefully the general
expressions, respecting grass, used in modern literature, I think
nearly the commonest that occurs to us will be that of "enamelled"
turf or sward. This phrase is usually employed by our pseudo-poets,
like all their other phrases, without knowing what it means, because
it has been used by other writers before them, and because they do not
know what else to say of grass. If we were to ask them what enamel
was, they could not tell us; and if we asked why grass was like
enamel, they could not tell us. The expression _has_ a meaning,
however, and one peculiarly characteristic of mediæval and modern

§ 48. The first instance I know of its right use, though very
probably it had been so employed before, is in Dante. The righteous
spirits of the pre-Christian ages are seen by him, though in the
Inferno, yet in a place open, luminous, and high, walking upon the
"green enamel."

I am very sure that Dante did not use this phrase as we use it. He
knew well what enamel was; and his readers, in order to understand
him thoroughly, must remember what it is,--a vitreous paste,
dissolved in water, mixed with metallic oxides, to give it the
opacity and the color required, spread in a moist state on metal,
and afterwards hardened by fire, so as never to change. And Dante
means, in using this metaphor of the grass of the Inferno, to mark
that it is laid as a tempering and cooling substance over the dark,
metallic, gloomy ground; but yet so hardened by the fire, that it is
not any more fresh or living grass, but a smooth, silent, lifeless
bed of eternal green. And we know how _hard_ Dante's idea of it was;
because afterwards, in what is perhaps the most awful passage of the
whole Inferno, when the three furies rise at the top of the burning
tower, and catching sight of Dante, and not being able to get at
him, shriek wildly for the Gorgon to come up too, that they may turn
him into stone,--the word _stone_ is not hard enough for them. Stone
might crumble away after it was made, or something with life might
grow upon it; no, it shall not be stone; they will make enamel of
him; nothing can grow out of that; it is dead for ever.[77]

    "Venga Medusa, si lo farem di _Smalto_."

§ 49. Now, almost in the opening of the Purgatory, as there at the
entrance of the Inferno, we find a company of great ones resting in
a grassy place. But the idea of the grass now is very different. The
word now used is not "enamel," but "herb," and instead of being
merely green, it is covered with flowers of many colors. With the
usual mediæval accuracy, Dante insists on telling us precisely what
these colors were, and how bright; which he does by naming the
actual pigments used in illumination,--"Gold, and fine silver, and
cochineal, and white lead, and Indian wood, serene and lucid, and
fresh emerald, just broken, would have been excelled, as less is by
greater, by the flowers and grass of the place." It is evident that
the "emerald" here means the emerald green of the illuminators; for
a fresh emerald is no brighter than one which is not fresh, and
Dante was not one to throw away his words thus. Observe, then, we
have here the idea of the growth, life, and variegation of the
"green herb," as opposed to the smalto of the Inferno; but the
colors of the variegation are illustrated and defined by the
reference to actual pigments; and, observe, because the other colors
are rather bright, the blue ground (Indian wood, indigo?) is sober;
lucid, but serene; and presently two angels enter, who are dressed
in green drapery, but of a paler green than the grass, which Dante
marks, by telling us that it was "the green of leaves just budded."

§ 50. In all this, I wish the reader to observe two things: first, the
general carefulness of the poet in defining color, distinguishing it
precisely as a painter would (opposed to the Greek carelessness about
it); and, secondly, his regarding the grass for its greenness and
variegation, rather than, as a Greek would have done, for its depth
and freshness. This greenness or brightness, and variegation, are
taken up by later and modern poets, as the things intended to be
chiefly expressed by the word "enamelled;" and, gradually, the term is
taken to indicate any kind of bright and interchangeable coloring;
there being always this much of propriety about it, when used of
greensward, that such sward is indeed, like enamel, a coat of bright
color on a comparatively dark ground; and is thus a sort of natural
jewelry and painter's work, different from loose and large vegetation.
The word is often awkwardly and falsely used, by the later poets, of
all kinds of growth and color; as by Milton of the flowers of Paradise
showing themselves over its wall; but it retains, nevertheless,
through all its jaded inanity, some half-unconscious vestige of the
old sense, even to the present day.

§ 51. There are, it seems to me, several important deductions to be
made from these facts. The Greek, we have seen, delighted in the
grass for its usefulness; the mediæval, as also we moderns, for its
color and beauty. But both dwell on it as the _first_ element of the
lovely landscape; we saw its use in Homer, we see also that Dante
thinks the righteous spirits of the heathen enough comforted in
Hades by having even the _image_ of green grass put beneath their
feet; the happy resting-place in Purgatory has no other delight than
its grass and flowers; and, finally, in the terrestrial paradise,
the feet of Matilda pause where the Lethe stream first bends the
blades of grass. Consider a little what a depth there is in this
great instinct of the human race. Gather a single blade of grass,
and examine for a minute, quietly, its narrow sword-shaped strip of
fluted green. Nothing, as it seems there, of notable goodness or
beauty. A very little strength, and a very little tallness, and a
few delicate long lines meeting in a point,--not a perfect point
neither, but blunt and unfinished, by no means a creditable or
apparently much cared for example of Nature's workmanship; made, as
it seems, only to be trodden on to-day, and to-morrow to be cast
into the oven; and a little pale and hollow stalk, feeble and
flaccid, leading down to the dull brown fibres of roots. And yet,
think of it well, and judge whether of all the gorgeous flowers that
beam in summer air, and of all strong and goodly trees, pleasant to
the eyes and good for food,--stately palm and pine, strong ash and
oak, scented citron, burdened vine,--there be any by man so deeply
loved, by God so highly graced, as that narrow point of feeble
green. It seems to me not to have been without a peculiar
significance, that our Lord, when about to work the miracle which,
of all that He showed, appears to have been felt by the multitude as
the most impressive,--the miracle of the loaves,--commanded the
people to sit down by companies "upon the green grass." He was about
to feed them with the principal produce of earth and the sea, the
simplest representations of the food of mankind. He gave them the
seed of the herb; He bade them sit down upon the herb itself, which
was as great a gift, in its fitness for their joy and rest, as its
perfect fruit, for their sustenance; thus, in this single order and
act, when rightly understood, indicating for evermore how the
Creator had entrusted the comfort, consolation, and sustenance of
man, to the simplest and most despised of all the leafy families of
the earth. And well does it fulfil its mission. Consider what we owe
merely to the meadow grass, to the covering of the dark ground by
that glorious enamel, by the companies of those soft, and countless,
and peaceful spears. The fields! Follow but forth for a little time
the thoughts of all that we ought to recognise in those words. All
spring and summer is in them,--the walks by silent, scented
paths,--the rests in noon-day heat,--the joy of herds and
flocks,--the power of all shepherd life and meditation,--the life of
sunlight upon the world, falling in emerald streaks, and falling in
soft blue shadows, where else it would have struck upon the dark
mould, or scorching dust,--pastures beside the pacing brooks,--soft
banks and knolls of lowly hills,--thymy slopes of down overlooked by
the blue line of lifted sea,--crisp lawns all dim with early dew, or
smooth in evening warmth of barred sunshine, dinted by happy feet,
and softening in their fall the sound of loving voices: all these
are summed in those simple words; and these are not all. We may not
measure to the full the depth of this heavenly gift, in our own
land; though still, as we think of it longer, the infinite of that
meadow sweetness, Shakspere's peculiar joy, would open on us more
and more, yet we have it but in part. Go out, in the spring time,
among the meadows that slope from the shores of the Swiss lakes to
the roots of their lower mountains. There, mingled with the taller
gentians and the white narcissus, the grass grows deep and free; and
as you follow the winding mountain paths, beneath arching boughs all
veiled and dim with blossom,--paths that for ever droop and rise
over the green banks and mounds sweeping down in scented undulation,
steep to the blue water, studded here and there with new mown heaps,
filling all the air with fainter sweetness,--look up towards the
higher hills, where the waves of everlasting green roll silently
into their long inlets among the shadows of the pines; and we may,
perhaps, at last know the meaning of those quiet words of the 147th
Psalm, "He maketh grass to grow upon the mountains."

§ 52. There are also several lessons symbolically connected with this
subject, which we must not allow to escape us. Observe, the peculiar
characters of the grass, which adapt it especially for the service of
man, are its apparent _humility_, and _cheerfulness_. Its humility, in
that it seems created only for lowest service,--appointed to be
trodden on, and fed upon. Its cheerfulness, in that it seems to exult
under all kinds of violence and suffering. You roll it, and it is
stronger the next day; you mow it, and it multiplies its shoots, as if
it were grateful; you tread upon it, and it only sends up richer
perfume. Spring comes, and it rejoices with all the earth,--glowing
with variegated flame of flowers,--waving in soft depth of fruitful
strength. Winter comes, and though it will not mock its fellow plants
by growing then, it will not pine and mourn, and turn colorless or
leafless as they. It is always green; and is only the brighter and
gayer for the hoar-frost.

§ 53. Now, these two characters--of humility, and joy under
trial--are exactly those which most definitely distinguish the
Christian from the Pagan spirit. Whatever virtue the pagan possessed
was rooted in pride, and fruited with sorrow. It began in the
elevation of his own nature; it ended but in the "verde smalto"--the
hopeless green--of the Elysian fields. But the Christian virtue is
rooted in self-debasement, and strengthened under suffering by
gladness of hope. And remembering this, it is curious to observe how
utterly without gladness the Greek heart appears to be in watching
the flowering grass, and what strange discords of expression arise
sometimes in consequence. There is one, recurring once or twice in
Homer, which has always pained me. He says, "the Greek army was on
the fields, as thick as flowers in the spring." It might be so; but
flowers in spring time are not the image by which Dante would have
numbered soldiers on their path of battle. Dante could not have
thought of the flowering of the grass but as associated with
happiness. There is a still deeper significance in the passage
quoted, a little while ago, from Homer, describing Ulysses casting
himself down on the _rushes_ and the corn-giving land at the river
shore,--the rushes and corn being to him only good for rest and
sustenance,--when we compare it with that in which Dante tells us he
was ordered to descend to the shore of the lake as he entered
Purgatory, to gather a _rush_, and gird himself with it, it being to
him the emblem not only of rest, but of humility under chastisement,
the rush (or reed) being the only plant which can grow there;--"no
plant which bears leaves, or hardens its bark, can live on that
shore, because it does not yield to the chastisement of its waves."
It cannot but strike the reader singularly how deep and harmonious a
significance runs through all these words of Dante--how every
syllable of them, the more we penetrate it, becomes a seed of
farther thought! For, follow up this image of the girding with the
reed, under trial, and see to whose feet it will lead us. As the
grass of the earth, thought of as the herb yielding seed, leads us
to the place where our Lord commanded the multitude to sit down by
companies upon the green grass; so the grass of the waters, thought
of as sustaining itself among the waters of affliction, leads us to
the place where a stem of it was put into our Lord's hand for his
sceptre; and in the crown of thorns, and the rod of reed, was
foreshown the everlasting truth of the Christian ages--that all
glory was to be begun in suffering, and all power in humility.

Assembling the images we have traced, and adding the simplest of
all, from Isaiah xl. 6., we find, the grass and flowers are types,
in their passing, of the passing of human life, and, in their
excellence, of the excellence of human life; and this in a twofold
way; first, by their Beneficence, and then, by their endurance:--the
grass of the earth, in giving the seed of corn, and in its beauty
under tread of foot and stroke of scythe; and the grass of the
waters, in giving its freshness for our rest, and in its bending
before the wave.[78] But understood in the broad human and Divine
sense, the "_herb_ yielding seed" (as opposed to the fruit-tree
yielding fruit) includes a third family of plants, and fulfils a
third office to the human race. It includes the great family of the
lints and flaxes, and fulfils thus the _three_ offices of giving
food, raiment, and rest. Follow out this fulfilment; consider the
association of the linen garment and the linen embroidery, with the
priestly office, and the furniture of the tabernacle: and consider
how the rush has been, in all time, the first natural carpet thrown
under the human foot. Then next observe the three virtues definitely
set forth by the three families of plants; not arbitrarily or
fancifully associated with them, but in all the three cases marked
for us by Scriptural words:

1st. Cheerfulness, or joyful serenity; in the grass for food and
beauty.--"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil
not, neither do they spin."

2nd. Humility; in the grass for rest.--"A bruised reed shall He not

3rd. Love; in the grass for clothing (because of its swift
kindling),--"The smoking flax shall He not quench."

And then, finally, observe the confirmation of these last two images
in, I suppose, the most important prophecy, relating to the future
state of the Christian Church, which occurs in the Old Testament,
namely, that contained in the closing chapters of Ezekiel. The
measures of the Temple of God are to be taken; and because it is
only by charity and humility that those measures ever can be taken,
the angel has "a line of _flax_ in his hand, and a measuring
_reed_." The use of the line was to measure the land, and of the
reed to take the dimensions of the buildings; so the buildings of
the church, or its labors, are to be measured by _humility_, and its
territory or land, by _love_.

The limits of the Church have, indeed, in later days, been measured,
to the world's sorrow, by another kind of flaxen line, burning with
the fire of unholy zeal, not with that of Christian charity; and
perhaps the best lesson which we can finally take to ourselves, in
leaving these sweet fields of the mediæval landscape, is the memory
that, in spite of all the fettered habits of thought of his age,
this great Dante, this inspired exponent of what lay deepest at the
heart of the early Church, placed his terrestrial paradise where
there had ceased to be fence or division, and where the grass of the
earth was bowed down, in unity of direction, only by the soft waves
that bore with them the forgetfulness of evil.

  [71] The peculiar dislike felt by the mediævals for the _sea_, is
       so interesting a subject of inquiry, that I have reserved it
       for separate discussion in another work, in present
       preparation, "Harbors of England."

  [72] Married to Philip, younger son of the King of Navarre, in
       1352. She died in 1394.

  [73] "Three times the length of a human body."--Purg. x. 24.

  [74] Purg. xii. 102.

  [75] "Come unto these _yellow_ sands."

  [76] "And thou art long, and lank, and _brown_,
       As is the ribbed sea sand."

  [77] Compare parallel passage, making Dante hard or changeless in
       good Purg. viii. 114.

  [78] So also in Isa. xxxv. 7., the prevalence of righteousness and
       peace over all evil is thus foretold:

       "In the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be
       _grass_, with _reeds_ and _rushes_."



§ 1. I closed the last chapter, not because our subject was
exhausted, but to give the reader breathing time, and because I
supposed he would hardly care to turn back suddenly from the
subjects of thought last suggested, to the less pregnant matters of
inquiry connected with mediæval landscape. Nor was the pause
mistimed even as respects the order of our subjects; for hitherto we
have been arrested chiefly by the beauty of the pastures and fields,
and have followed the mediæval mind in its fond regard of leaf and
flower. But now we have some hard hill-climbing to do; and the
remainder of our investigation must be carried on, for the most
part, on hands and knees, so that it is not ill done of us first to
take breath.

§ 2. It will be remembered that in the last chapter, § 14., we
supposed it probable that there would be considerable inaccuracies
in the mediæval mode of regarding nature. Hitherto, however, we have
found none; but, on the contrary, intense accuracy, precision, and
affection. The reason of this is, that all floral and foliaged
beauty might be perfectly represented, as far as its form went, in
the sculpture and ornamental painting of the period; hence the
attention of men was thoroughly awakened to that beauty. But as
mountains and clouds and large features of natural scenery could not
be accurately represented, we must be prepared to find them not so
carefully contemplated,--more carefully, indeed, than by the Greeks,
but still in no wise as the things themselves deserve.

§ 3. It was besides noticed that mountains, though regarded with
reverence by the mediæval, were also the subjects of a certain
dislike and dread. And we have seen already that in fact the place
of the soul's purification, though a mountain, is yet by Dante
subdued, whenever there is any pleasantness to be found upon it,
from all mountainous character into grassy recesses, or slopes to
rushy shore; and, in his general conception of it, resembles much
more a castle mound, surrounded by terraced walks,--in the manner,
for instance, of one of Turner's favorite scenes, the bank under
Richmond Castle (Yorkshire); or, still more, one of the hill slopes
divided by terraces, above the Rhine, in which the picturesqueness
of the ground has been reduced to the form best calculated for the
growing of costly wine, than any scene to which we moderns should
naturally attach the term "Mountainous." On the other hand, although
the Inferno is just as accurately measured and divided as the
Purgatory, it is nevertheless cleft into rocky chasms which possess
something of true mountain nature--nature which we moderns of the
north should most of us seek with delight, but which, to the great
Florentine, appeared adapted only for the punishment of lost
spirits, and which, on the mind of nearly all his countrymen, would
to this day produce a very closely correspondent effect; so that
their graceful language, dying away on the north side of the Alps,
gives its departing accents to proclaim its detestation of hardness
and ruggedness; and is heard for the last time, as it bestows on the
noblest defile in all the Grisons, if not in all the Alpine chain,
the name of the "_evil_ way"--"la Via Mala."

§ 4. This "evil way," though much deeper and more sublime,
corresponds closely in general character to Dante's "Evil-pits,"
just as the banks of Richmond do to his mountain of Purgatory; and
it is notable that Turner has been led to illustrate, with his whole
strength, the character of both; having founded, as it seems to me,
his early dreams of mountain form altogether on the sweet banks of
the Yorkshire streams, and rooted his hardier thoughts of it in the
rugged clefts of the Via Mala.

§ 5. Nor of the Via Mala only: a correspondent defile on the St.
Gothard,--so terrible in one part of it, that it can, indeed,
suggest no ideas but those of horror to minds either of northern or
southern temper, and whose wild bridge, cast from rock to rock over
a chasm as utterly hopeless and escapeless as any into which Dante
gazed from the arches of Malebolge, has been, therefore, ascribed
both by northern and southern lips to the master-building of the
great spirit of evil--supplied to Turner the element of his most
terrible thoughts in mountain vision, even to the close of his life.
The noblest plate in the series of the Liber Studiorum,[79] one
engraved by his own hand, is of that bridge; the last mountain
journey he ever took was up the defile; and a rocky bank and arch,
in the last mountain drawing which he ever executed with his perfect
power, are remembrances of the path by which he had traversed in his
youth this Malebolge of the St. Gothard.

§ 6. It is therefore with peculiar interest, as bearing on our own
proper subject, that we must examine Dante's conception of the rocks
of the eighth circle. And first, as to general tone of color: from
what we have seen of the love of the mediæval for bright and
variegated color, we might guess that his chief cause of dislike to
rocks would be, in Italy, their comparative colorlessness. With
hardly an exception, the range of the Apennines is composed of a
stone of which some special account is given hereafter in the
chapters on Materials of Mountains, and of which one peculiarity,
there noticed, is its monotony of hue. Our slates and granites are
often of very lovely colors; but the Apennine limestone is so grey
and toneless, that I know not any mountain district so utterly
melancholy as those which are composed of this rock, when unwooded.
Now, as far as I can discover from the internal evidence in his
poem, nearly all Dante's mountain wanderings had been upon this
ground. He had journeyed once or twice among the Alps, indeed, but
seems to have been impressed chiefly by the road from Garda to
Trent, and that along the Corniche, both of which are either upon
those limestones, or a dark serpentine, which shows hardly any color
till it is polished. It is not ascertainable that he had ever seen
rocky scenery of the finely colored kind, aided by the Alpine
mosses: I do not know the fall at Forli (Inferno, xvi. 99.), but
every other scene to which he alludes is among these Apennine
limestones; and when he wishes to give the idea of enormous mountain
size, he names Tabernicch and Pietra-pana,--the one clearly chosen
only for the sake of the last syllable of its name, in order to make
a sound as of cracking ice, with the two sequent rhymes of the
stanza,--and the other is an Apennine near Lucca.

§ 7. His idea, therefore, of rock color, founded on these
experiences, is that of a dull or ashen grey, more or less stained
by the brown of iron ochre, precisely as the Apennine limestones
nearly always are; the grey being peculiarly cold and disagreeable.
As we go down the very hill which stretches out from Pietra-pana
towards Lucca, the stones laid by the road-side to mend it are of
this ashen grey, with efflorescences of manganese and iron in the
fissures. The whole of Malebolge is made of this rock, "All wrought
in stone of iron-colored grain."[80]

Perhaps the iron color may be meant to predominate in Evil-pits; but
the definite grey limestone color is stated higher up, the river
Styx flowing at the base of "malignant _grey_ cliffs"[81] (the word
malignant being given to the iron-colored Malebolge also); and the
same whitish-grey idea is given again definitely in describing the
robe of the purgatorial or penance angel, which is "of the color of
ashes, or earth dug dry." Ashes necessarily mean _wood_-ashes in an
Italian mind, so that we get the tone very pale; and there can be no
doubt whatever about the hue meant, because it is constantly seen on
the sunny sides of the Italian hills, produced by the scorching of
the ground, a dusty and lifeless whitish grey, utterly painful and
oppressive; and I have no doubt that this color, assumed eminently
also by limestone crags in the sun, is the quality which Homer means
to express by a term he applies often to bare rocks, and which is
usually translated "craggy," or "rocky." Now Homer is indeed quite
capable of talking of "rocky rocks," just as he talks sometimes of
"wet water;" but I think he means more by this word: it sounds as if
it were derived from another, meaning "meal," or "flour," and I have
little doubt it means "mealy white;" the Greek limestones being for
the most part brighter in effect than the Apennine ones.

§ 8. And the fact is, that the great and pre-eminent fault of
southern, as compared with northern scenery, is this rock-whiteness,
which gives to distant mountain ranges, lighted by the sun, sometimes
a faint and monotonous glow, hardly detaching itself from the whiter
parts of the sky, and sometimes a speckled confusion of white light
with blue shadow, breaking up the whole mass of the hills, and making
them look near and small; the whiteness being still distinct at the
distance of twenty or twenty-five miles. The inferiority and
meagreness of such effects of hill, compared with the massive purple
and blue of our own heaps of crags and morass, or the solemn
grass-green and pine-purples of the Alps, have always struck me most
painfully; and they have rendered it impossible for any poet or
painter studying in the south, to enter with joy into hill scenery.
Imagine the difference to Walter Scott, if instead of the single
lovely color which, named by itself alone, was enough to describe his

      "Their southern rapine to renew,
      Far in the distant Cheviot's _blue_,"--

a dusty whiteness had been the image that first associated itself
with a hill range, and he had been obliged, instead of "blue"
Cheviots, to say, "barley-meal-colored" Cheviots.

§ 9. But although this would cause a somewhat painful shock even to
a modern mind, it would be as nothing when compared with the pain
occasioned by absence of color to a mediæval one. We have been
trained, by our ingenious principles of Renaissance architecture, to
think that meal-color and ash-color are the properest colors of all;
and that the most aristocratic harmonies are to be deduced out of
grey mortar and creamy stucco. Any of our modern classical
architects would delightedly "face" a heathery hill with Roman
cement; and any Italian sacristan would, but for the cost of it, at
once whitewash the Cheviots. But the mediævals had not arrived at
these abstract principles of taste. They liked fresco better than
whitewash; and, on the whole, thought that Nature was in the right
in painting her flowers yellow, pink, and blue;--not grey.
Accordingly, this absence of color from rocks, as compared with
meadows and trees, was in their eyes an unredeemable defect; nor did
it matter to them whether its place was supplied by the grey neutral
tint, or the iron-colored stain; for both colors, grey and brown,
were, to them, hues of distress, despair, and mortification, hence
adopted always for the dresses of monks; only the word "brown" bore,
in their color vocabulary, a still gloomier sense than with us. I
was for some time embarrassed by Dante's use of it with respect to
dark skies and water. Thus, in describing a simple twilight--not a
Hades twilight, but an ordinarily fair evening--(Inf. ii. 1.) he
says, the "brown" air took the animals of earth away from their
fatigues;--the waves under Charon's boat are "brown" (Inf. iii.
117.); and Lethe, which is perfectly clear and yet dark, as with
oblivion, is "bruna-bruna," "brown, _exceeding_ brown." Now, clearly
in all these cases no _warmth_ is meant to be mingled in the color.
Dante had never seen one of our bog-streams, with its porter-colored
foam; and there can be no doubt that, in calling Lethe brown, he
means that it was dark slate grey, inclining to black; as, for
instance, our clear Cumberland lakes, which, looked straight down
upon where they are deep, seem to be lakes of ink. I am sure this is
the color he means; because no clear stream or lake on the Continent
ever looks brown, but blue or green; and Dante, by merely taking
away the pleasant color, would get at once to this idea of grave
clear grey. So, when he was talking of twilight, his eye for color
was far too good to let him call it _brown_ in our sense. Twilight
is not brown, but purple, golden, or dark grey; and this last was
what Dante meant. Farther, I find that this negation of color is
always the means by which Dante subdues his tones. Thus the fatal
inscription on the Hades gate is written in "obscure color," and the
air which torments the passionate spirits is "aer nero" _black_ air
(Inf. v. 51.), called presently afterwards (line 81.) malignant air,
just as the grey cliffs are called malignant cliffs.

§ 10. I was not, therefore, at a loss to find out what Dante meant
by the word; but I was at a loss to account for his not, as it
seemed, acknowledging the existence of the color of _brown_ at all;
for if he called dark neutral tint "brown," it remained a question
what term he would use for things of the color of burnt umber. But,
one day, just when I was puzzling myself about this, I happened to
be sitting by one of our best living modern colorists, watching him
at his work, when he said, suddenly, and by mere accident, after we
had been talking of other things, "Do you know I have found that
there is no _brown_ in Nature? What we call brown is always a
variety either of orange or purple. It never can be represented by
umber, unless altered by contrast."

§ 11. It is curious how far the significance of this remark extends,
how exquisitely it illustrates and confirms the mediæval sense of
hue;--how far, on the other hand, it cuts into the heart of the old
umber idolatries of Sir George Beaumont and his colleagues, the "where
do you put your _brown_ tree" system; the code of Cremona-violin-
colored foregrounds, of brown varnish and asphaltum; and all the old
night-owl science, which, like Young's pencil of sorrow,

      "In melancholy dipped, _embrowns_ the whole."

Nay, I do Young an injustice by associating his words with the
asphalt schools; for his eye for color was true, and like Dante's;
and I doubt not that he means dark grey, as Byron purple-grey in
that night piece in the Siege of Corinth, beginning

      "'Tis midnight; on the mountains _brown_
      The cold, round moon looks deeply down;"

and, by the way, Byron's best piece of evening color farther
certifies the hues of Dante's twilight,--it

      "Dies like the dolphin, when it gasps away--
      The last still loveliest; till 'tis gone, and all is _grey_."

§ 12. Let not, however, the reader confuse the use of brown, as an
expression of a natural tint, with its use as a means of _getting
other tints_. Brown is often an admirable ground, just because it is
the only tint which is _not_ to be in the finished picture, and
because it is the best basis of many silver greys and purples, utterly
opposite to it in their nature. But there is infinite difference
between laying a brown ground as a representation of shadow,--and as a
base for light; and also an infinite difference between using brown
shadows, associated with colored lights--always the characteristic of
false schools of color--and using brown as a warm neutral tint for
general study. I shall have to pursue this subject farther hereafter,
in noticing how brown is used by great colorists in their studies,
not as color, but as the pleasantest negation of color, possessing
more transparency than black, and having more pleasant and sunlike
warmth. Hence Turner, in his early studies, used blue for distant
neutral tint, and brown for foreground neutral tint; while, as he
advanced in color science, he gradually introduced, in the place of
brown, strange purples, altogether peculiar to himself, founded,
apparently, on Indian red and vermilion, and passing into various
tones of russet and orange.[82] But, in the meantime, we must go back
to Dante and his mountains.

§ 13. We find, then, that his general type of rock color was meant,
whether pale or dark, to be a colorless grey--the most melancholy
hue which he supposed to exist in Nature (hence the synonym for it,
subsisting even till late times, in mediæval appellatives of dress,
"_sad_-colored")--with some rusty stain from iron; or perhaps the
"color ferrigno" of the Inferno does not involve even so much of
orange, but ought to be translated "iron grey."

This being his idea of the color of rocks, we have next to observe
his conception of their substance. And I believe it will be found that
the character on which he fixes first in them is _frangibility_
--breakableness to bits, as opposed to wood, which can be sawn or
rent, but not shattered with a hammer, and to metal, which is tough
and malleable.

Thus, at the top of the abyss of the seventh circle, appointed for
the "violent," or souls who had done evil by force, we are told,
first, that the edge of it was composed of "great broken stones in a
circle;" then, that the place was "Alpine;" and, becoming hereupon
attentive, in order to hear what an Alpine place is like, we find
that it was "like the place beyond Trent, where the rock, either by
earthquake, or failure of support, has broken down to the plain, so
that it gives any one at the top some means of getting down to the
bottom." This is not a very elevated or enthusiastic description of
an Alpine scene; and it is far from mended by the following verses,
in which we are told that Dante "began to go down by this great
_unloading_ of stones," and that they moved often under his feet by
reason of the new weight. The fact is that Dante, by many
expressions throughout the poem, shows himself to have been a
notably bad climber; and being fond of sitting in the sun, looking
at his fair Baptistery, or walking in a dignified manner on flat
pavement in a long robe, it puts him seriously out of his way when
he has to take to his hands and knees, or look to his feet; so that
the first strong impression made upon him by any Alpine scene
whatever, is, clearly, that it is bad walking. When he is in a
fright and hurry, and has a very steep place to go down, Virgil has
to carry him altogether, and is obliged to encourage him, again and
again, when they have a steep slope to go up,--the first ascent of
the purgatorial mountain. The similes by which he illustrates the
steepness of that ascent are all taken from the Riviera of Genoa,
now traversed by a good carriage road under the name of the
Corniche; but as this road did not exist in Dante's time, and the
steep precipices and promontories were then probably traversed by
footpaths, which, as they necessarily passed in many places over
crumbling and slippery limestone, were doubtless not a little
dangerous, and as in the manner they commanded the bays of sea
below, and lay exposed to the full blaze of the south-eastern sun,
they corresponded precisely to the situation of the path by which he
ascends above the purgatorial sea, the image could not possibly have
been taken from a better source for the fully conveying his idea to
the reader: nor, by the way, is there reason to discredit, in _this_
place, his powers of climbing; for, with his usual accuracy, he has
taken the angle of the path for us, saying it was considerably more
than forty-five. Now a continuous mountain slope of forty-five
degrees is already quite unsafe either for ascent or descent, except
by zigzag paths; and a greater slope than this could not be climbed,
straightforward, but by help of crevices or jags in the rock, and
great physical exertion besides.

§ 14. Throughout these passages, however, Dante's thoughts are
clearly fixed altogether on the question of mere accessibility or
inaccessibility. He does not show the smallest interest in the
rocks, except as things to be conquered; and his description of
their appearance is utterly meagre, involving no other epithets than
"erto" (steep or upright), Inf. xix. 131., Purg. iii. 48. &c.;
"sconcio" (monstrous), Inf. xix. 131.; "stagliata" (cut), Inf. xvii.
134.; "maligno" (malignant), Inf. vii. 108; "duro" (hard), xx. 25.;
with "large" and "broken" (rotto) in various places. No idea of
roundness, massiveness, or pleasant form of any kind appears for a
moment to enter his mind; and the different names which are given to
the rocks in various places seem merely to refer to variations in
size: thus a "rocco" is a part of a "scoglio," Inf. xx. 25. and
xxvi. 27.; a "scheggio" (xxi. 69. and xxvi. 17.) is a less fragment
yet; a "petrone," or "sasso," is a large stone or boulder (Purg. iv.
101. 104.), and "pietra," a less stone,--both of these last terms,
especially "sasso," being used for any large mountainous mass, as in
Purg. xxi. 106.; and the vagueness of the word "monte" itself, like
that of the French "montagne," applicable either to a hill on a
post-road requiring the drag to be put on,--or to the Mont Blanc,
marks a peculiar carelessness in both nations, at the time of the
formation of their languages, as to the sublimity of the higher
hills; so that the effect produced on an English ear by the word
"mountain," signifying always a mass of a certain large size, cannot
be conveyed either in French or Italian.

§ 15. In all these modes of regarding rocks we find (rocks being in
themselves, as we shall see presently, by no means monstrous or
frightful things) exactly that inaccuracy in the mediæval mind which
we had been led to expect, in its bearings on things contrary to the
spirit of that symmetrical and perfect humanity which had formed its
ideal; and it is very curious to observe how closely in the terms he
uses, and the feelings they indicate, Dante here agrees with Homer.
For the word stagliata (cut) corresponds very nearly to a favorite
term of Homer's respecting rocks "sculptured," used by him also of
ships' sides; and the frescoes and illuminations of the Middle Ages
enable us to ascertain exactly what this idea of "cut" rock was.

§ 16. In Plate 10. I have assembled some examples, which will give
the reader a sufficient knowledge of mediæval rock-drawing, by men
whose names are known. They are chiefly taken from engravings, with
which the reader has it in his power to compare them,[83] and if,
therefore, any injustice is done to the original paintings the fault
is not mine; but the general impression conveyed is quite accurate,
and it would not have been worth while, where work is so deficient
in first conception, to lose time in insuring accuracy of facsimile.
Some of the crags may be taller here, or broader there, than in the
original paintings; but the character of the work is perfectly
preserved, and that is all with which we are at present concerned.

[Illustration: 10. Geology of the Middle Ages.]

Figs. 1. and 5. are by Ghirlandajo; 2. by Filippo Pesellino; 4. by
Leonardo da Vinci; and 6. by Andrea del Castagno. All these are
indeed workmen of a much later period than Dante, but the system of
rock-drawing remains entirely unchanged from Giotto's time to
Ghirlandajo's;--is then altered only by an introduction of
stratification indicative of a little closer observance of nature,
and so remains until Titian's time. Fig 1. is exactly representative
of one of Giotto's rocks, though actually by Ghirlandajo; and Fig.
2. is rather less skilful than Giotto's ordinary work. Both these
figures indicate precisely what Homer and Dante meant by "cut"
rocks. They had observed the concave smoothness of certain rock
fractures as eminently distinctive of rock from earth, and use the
term "cut" or "sculptured" to distinguish the smooth surface from
the knotty or sandy one, having observed nothing more respecting its
real contours than is represented in Figs. 1. and 2., which look as
if they had been hewn out with an adze. Lorenzo Ghiberti preserves
the same type, even in his finest work.

Fig. 3., from an interesting sixteenth century MS. in the British
Museum (Cotton, Augustus, A. 5.), is characteristic of the best
later illuminators' work; and Fig. 5., from Ghirlandajo, is pretty
illustrative of Dante's idea of terraces on the purgatorial
mountain. It is the road by which the Magi descend in his picture of
their Adoration, in the Academy of Florence. Of the other examples I
shall have more to say in the chapter on Precipices; meanwhile we
have to return to the landscape of the poem.

§ 17. Inaccurate as this conception of rock was, it seems to have been
the only one which, in mediæval art had place as representative of
mountain scenery. To Dante, mountains are inconceivable except as
great broken stones or crags; all their broad contours and undulations
seem to have escaped his eye. It is, indeed, with his usual undertone
of symbolic meaning that he describes the great broken stones, and the
fall of the shattered mountain, as the entrance to the circle
appointed for the punishment of the violent; meaning that the violent
and cruel, notwithstanding all their iron hardness of heart, have no
true strength, but, either by earthquake, or want of support, fall at
last into desolate ruin, naked, loose, and shaking under the tread.
But in no part of the poem do we find allusion to mountains in any
other than a stern light; nor the slightest evidence that Dante cared
to look at them. From that hill of San Miniato, whose steps he knew so
well, the eye commands, at the farther extremity of the Val d'Arno,
the whole purple range of the mountains of Carrara, peaked and mighty,
seen always against the sunset light in silent outline, the chief
forms that rule the scene as twilight fades away. By this vision Dante
seems to have been wholly unmoved, and, but for Lucan's mention of
Aruns at Luna, would seemingly not have spoken of the Carrara hills in
the whole course of his poem: when he does allude to them, he speaks
of their white marble, and their command of stars and sea, but has
evidently no regard for the hills themselves. There is not a single
phrase or syllable throughout the poem which indicates such a regard.
Ugolino, in his dream, seemed to himself to be in the mountains, "by
cause of which the Pisan cannot see Lucca;" and it is impossible to
look up from Pisa to that hoary slope without remembering the awe that
there is in the passage; nevertheless, it was as a hunting-ground only
that he remembered those hills. Adam of Brescia, tormented with
eternal thirst, remembers the hills of Romena, but only for the sake
of their sweet waters:

      "The rills that glitter down the grassy slopes
      Of Casentino, making fresh and soft
      The banks whereby they glide to Arno's stream,
      Stand ever in my view."

And, whenever hills are spoken of as having any influence on
character, the repugnance to them is still manifest; they are always
causes of rudeness or cruelty:

      "But that ungrateful and malignant race,
      Who in old times came down from Fesole,
      _Ay, and still smack of their rough mountain flint_,
      Will, for thy good deeds, show thee enmity.
      Take heed thou cleanse thee of their ways."

So again--

                "As one _mountain-bred_,
      Rugged, and clownish, if some city's walls
      He chance to enter, round him stares agape."

§ 18. Finally, although the Carrara mountains are named as having
command of the stars and sea, the _Alps_ are never specially
mentioned but in bad weather, or snow. On the sand of the circle of
the blasphemers--

                "Fell slowly wafting down
      Dilated flakes of fire, as flakes of snow
      On Alpine summit, when the wind is hushed."

So the Paduans have to defend their town and castles against

              "Ere the genial warmth be felt,
      On Chiarentana's top."

The clouds of anger, in Purgatory, can only be figured to the reader
who has

      "On an Alpine height been ta'en by cloud,
      Through which thou sawest no better than the mole
      Doth through opacous membrane."

And in approaching the second branch of Lethe, the seven ladies

                "Arriving at the verge
      Of a dim umbrage hoar, such as is seen
      Beneath green leaves and gloomy branches oft
      To overbrow a bleak and Alpine cliff."

§ 19. Truly, it is unfair of Dante, that when he is going to use
snow for a lovely image, and speak of it as melting away under
heavenly sunshine, he must needs put it on the Apennines, not on the

            "As snow that lies
      Amidst the living rafters, on the back
      Of Italy, congealed, when drifted high
      And closely piled by rough Sclavonian blasts,
      Breathe but the land whereon no shadow falls,
      And straightway melting, it distils away,
      Like a fire-washed taper; thus was I,
      Without a sigh, or tear, consumed in heart."

The reader will thank me for reminding him, though out of its proper
order, of the exquisite passage of Scott which we have to compare
with this:

      "As snow upon the mountain's breast
      Slides from the rock that gave it rest,
      Sweet Ellen glided from her stay,
      And at the monarch's feet she lay."

Examine the context of this last passage, and its beauty is quite
beyond praise; but note the northern love of rocks in the very first
words I have to quote from Scott, "The rocks that gave it rest." Dante
could not have thought of his "cut rocks" as giving rest even to snow.
He must put it on the pine branches, if it is to be at peace.

§ 20. There is only one more point to be noticed in the Dantesque
landscape; namely, the feeling entertained by the poet towards the
sky. And the love of mountains is so closely connected with the love
of clouds, the sublimity of both depending much on their
association, that having found Dante regardless of the Carrara
mountains as seen from San Miniato, we may well expect to find him
equally regardless of the clouds in which the sun sank behind them.
Accordingly, we find that his only pleasure in the sky depends on
its "white clearness,"--that turning into "bianca aspette di
celestro" which is so peculiarly characteristic of fine days in
Italy. His pieces of pure pale light are always exquisite. In the
dawn on the purgatorial mountain, first, in its pale white, he sees
the "tremola della marina"--trembling of the sea; then it becomes
vermilion; and at last, near sunrise, orange. These are precisely
the changes of a calm and perfect dawn. The scenery of Paradise
begins with "Day added to day," the light of the sun so flooding the
heavens, that "never rain nor river made lake so wide;" and
throughout the Paradise all the beauty depends on spheres of light,
or stars, never on clouds. But the pit of the Inferno is at first
sight obscure, deep, and so _cloudy_ that at its bottom nothing
could be seen. When Dante and Virgil reach the marsh in which the
souls of those who have been angry and sad in their lives are for
ever plunged, they find it covered with thick fog; and the condemned
souls say to them,--

                          "We once were sad,
      In the _sweet air, made gladsome by the sun_.
      Now in these murky settlings are we sad."

Even the angel crossing the marsh to help them is annoyed by this
bitter marsh smoke, "fummo acerbo," and continually sweeps it with
his hand from before his face.

Anger, on the purgatorial mountain, is in like manner imaged,
because of its blindness and wildness, by the Alpine clouds. As they
emerge from its mist they see the white light radiated through the
fading folds of it; and, except this appointed cloud, no other can
touch the mountain of purification.

              "Tempest none, shower, hail, or snow,
      Hoar-frost, or dewy moistness, higher falls,
      Than that brief scale of threefold steps. Thick clouds,
      Nor scudding rack, are ever seen, swift glance
      Ne'er lightens, nor Thaumantian iris gleams."

Dwell for a little while on this intense love of Dante for
light,--taught, as he is at last by Beatrice, to gaze on the sun
itself like an eagle,--and endeavor to enter into his equally
intense detestation of all mist, rack of cloud, or dimness of rain;
and then consider with what kind of temper he would have regarded a
landscape of Copley Fielding's or passed a day in the Highlands. He
has, in fact, assigned to the souls of the gluttonous no other
punishment in the Inferno than perpetuity of Highland weather:

      Ceaseless, accursed, heavy and cold, unchanged
      For ever, both in kind and in degree,--
      Large hail, discolored water, sleety flaw,
      Through the dim midnight air streamed down amain."

§ 21. However, in this immitigable dislike of clouds, Dante goes
somewhat beyond the general temper of his age. For although the calm
sky was alone loved, and storm and rain were dreaded by all men,
yet the white horizontal clouds of serene summer were regarded with
great affection by all early painters, and considered as one of the
accompaniments of the manifestation of spiritual power; sometimes,
for theological reasons which we shall soon have to examine, being
received, even without any other sign, as the types of blessing or
Divine acceptance: and in almost every representation of the
heavenly paradise, these level clouds are set by the early painters
for its floor, or for thrones of its angels; whereas Dante retains
steadily, through circle after circle, his cloudless thought, and
concludes his painting of heaven, as he began it upon the
purgatorial mountain, with the image of shadowless morning:

      "I raised my eyes, and as at morn is seen
      The horizon's eastern quarter to excel,
      So likewise, that pacific Oriflamb
      Glowed in the midmost, and toward every part,
      With like gradation paled away its flame."

But the best way of regarding this feeling of Dante's is as the
ultimate and most intense expression of the love of light, color,
and clearness, which, as we saw above, distinguished the mediæval
from the Greek on one side, and, as we shall presently see,
distinguished him from the modern on the other. For it is evident
that precisely in the degree in which the Greek was agriculturally
inclined, in that degree the sight of clouds would become to him
more acceptable than to the mediæval knight, who only looked for the
fine afternoons in which he might gather the flowers in his garden,
and in no wise shared or imagined the previous anxieties of his
gardener. Thus, when we find Ulysses comforted about Ithaca, by
being told it had "plenty of rain," and the maids of Colonos
boasting of their country for the same reason, we may be sure that
they had some regard for clouds; and accordingly, except
Aristophanes, of whom more presently, all the Greek poets speak
fondly of the clouds, and consider them the fitting resting-places
of the gods; including in their idea of clouds not merely the thin
clear cirrus, but the rolling and changing volume of the
thundercloud; nor even these only, but also the dusty whirlwind
cloud of the earth, as in that noble chapter of Herodotus which
tells us of the cloud, full of mystic voices, that rose out of the
dust of Eleusis, and went down to Salamis. Clouds and rain were of
course regarded with a like gratitude by the eastern and southern
nations--Jews and Egyptians; and it is only among the northern
mediævals, with whom fine weather was rarely so prolonged as to
occasion painful drought, or dangerous famine, and over whom the
clouds broke coldly and fiercely when they came, that the love of
serene light assumes its intense character, and the fear of tempest
is gloomiest; so that the powers of the clouds which to the Greek
foretold his conquest at Salamis, and with whom he fought in
alliance, side by side with their lightnings, under the crest of
Parnassus, seemed, in the heart of the Middle Ages, to be only under
the dominion of the spirit of evil. I have reserved, for our last
example of the landscape of Dante, the passage in which this
conviction is expressed; a passage not less notable for its close
description of what the writer feared and disliked, than for the
ineffable tenderness, in which Dante is always raised as much above
all other poets, as in softness the rose above all other flowers. It
is the spirit of Buonconte da Montefeltro who speaks:

      "Then said another: 'Ah, so may thy wish,
      That takes thee o'er the mountain, be fulfilled,
      As thou shalt graciously give aid to mine!
      Of Montefeltro I; Buonconte I:
      Giovanna, nor none else, have care for me;
      Sorrowing with these I therefore go.' I thus:
      From Campaldino's field what force or chance
      Drew thee, that ne'er thy sepulchre was known?'
      'Oh!' answered he, 'at Casentino's foot
      A stream there courseth, named Archiano, sprung
      In Apennine, above the hermit's seat.
      E'en where its name is cancelled, there came I,
      Pierced in the throat, fleeing away on foot,
      And bloodying the plain. Here sight and speech
      failed me; and finishing with Mary's name,
      I fell, and tenantless my flesh remained.
      _That evil will, which in his intellect
      Still follows evil, came;_
                           ... the valley, soon
      As day was spent, _he covered o'er with cloud_.
      From Pratomagno to the mountain range,
      And stretched the sky above; so that the air,
      Impregnate, changed to water. Fell the rain;
      And to the fosses came all that the land
      Contained not; and as mightiest streams are wont.
      To the great river, with such headlong sweep,
      Rushed, that nought stayed its course. My stiffened frame,
      Laid at his mouth, the fell Archiano found,
      And dashed it into Arno; from my breast
      Loosening the cross, that of myself I made
      When overcome with pain. He hurled me on,
      Along the banks and bottom of his course;
      Then in his muddy spoils encircling wrapt.'"

Observe, Buonconte, as he dies, crosses his arms over his breast,
pressing them together, partly in his pain, partly in prayer. His
body thus lies by the river shore, as on a sepulchral monument, the
arms folded into a cross. The rage of the river, under the influence
of the evil demon, _unlooses this cross_, dashing the body supinely
away, and rolling it over and over by bank and bottom. Nothing can
be truer to the action of a stream in fury than these lines. And how
desolate is it all! The lonely flight,--the grisly wound, "pierced
in the throat,"--the death, without help or pity,--only the name of
Mary on the lips,-and the cross folded over the heart. Then the rage
of the demon and the river,--the noteless grave,--and, at last, even
she who had been most trusted forgetting him,--

      "Giovanna, none else have care for me."

There is, I feel assured, nothing else like it in all the range of
poetry; a faint and harsh echo of it, only, exists in one Scottish
ballad, "The Twa Corbies."

Here, then, I think, we may close our inquiry into the nature of the
mediæval landscape; not but that many details yet require to be worked
out; but these will be best observed by recurrence to them, for
comparison with similar details in modern landscape,--our principal
purpose, the getting at the governing tones and temper of conception,
being, I believe, now sufficiently accomplished. And I think that our
subject may be best pursued by immediately turning from the mediæval
to the perfectly modern landscape; for although I have much to say
respecting the transitional state of mind exhibited in the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries, I believe the transitions may be more
easily explained after we have got clear sight of the extremes; and
that by getting perfect and separate hold of the three great phases of
art,--Greek, mediæval, and modern,--we shall be enabled to trace, with
least chance of error, those curious vacillations which brought us to
the modern temper while vainly endeavoring to resuscitate the Greek. I
propose, therefore, in the next chapter, to examine the spirit of
modern landscape, as seen generally in modern painting, and especially
in the poetry of Scott.

  [79] It is an unpublished plate. I know only two impressions of it.

  [80] (Cayley.) "Tutto di pietra, e di color ferrigno"--Inf. xviii. 2.

  [81] "Maligne piagge grige."--Inf. vii. 108.

  [82] It is in these subtle purples that even the more
       elaborate passages of the earlier drawings are worked; as,
       for instance, the Highland streams, spoken of in
       Pre-Raphaelitism. Also, Turner could, by opposition, get what
       color he liked out of a brown. I have seen cases in which he
       had made it stand for the purest _rose_ light.

  [83] The references are in Appendix I.



§ 1. We turn our eyes, therefore, as boldly and as quickly as may
be, from these serene fields and skies of mediæval art, to the most
characteristic examples of modern landscape. And, I believe, the
first thing that will strike us, or that ought to strike us, is
their _cloudiness_.

Out of perfect light and motionless air, we find ourselves on a
sudden brought under sombre skies, and into drifting wind; and, with
fickle sunbeams flashing in our face, or utterly drenched with sweep
of rain, we are reduced to track the changes of the shadows on the
grass, or watch the rents of twilight through angry cloud. And we
find that whereas all the pleasure of the mediæval was in
_stability_, _definiteness_, and _luminousness_, we are expected to
rejoice in darkness, and triumph in mutability; to lay the
foundation of happiness in things which momentarily change or fade;
and to expect the utmost satisfaction and instruction from what is
impossible to arrest, and difficult to comprehend.

§ 2. We find, however, together with this general delight in breeze
and darkness, much attention to the real form of clouds, and careful
drawing of effects of mist: so that the appearance of objects, as
seen through it, becomes a subject of science with us: and the
faithful representation of that appearance is made of primal
importance, under the name of aerial perspective. The aspects of
sunset and sunrise, with all their attendant phenomena of cloud and
mist, are watchfully delineated; and in ordinary daylight landscape,
the sky is considered of so much importance, that a principal mass
of foliage, or a whole foreground, is unhesitatingly thrown into
shade merely to bring out the form of a white cloud. So that, if a
general and characteristic name were needed for modern landscape
art, none better could be invented than "the service of clouds."

§ 3. And this name would, unfortunately, be characteristic of our
art in more ways than one. In the last chapter, I said that all the
Greeks spoke kindly about the clouds, except Aristophanes; and he, I
am sorry to say (since his report is so unfavorable), is the only
Greek who had studied them attentively. He tells us, first, that
they are "great goddesses to idle men;" then, that they are
"mistresses of disputings, and logic, and monstrosities, and noisy
chattering;" declares that whoso believes in their divinity must
first disbelieve in Jupiter, and place supreme power in the hands of
an unknown god "Whirlwind;" and, finally, he displays their
influence over the mind of one of their disciples, in his sudden
desire "to speak ingeniously concerning smoke."

There is, I fear, an infinite truth in this Aristophanic judgment
applied to our modern cloud-worship. Assuredly, much of the love of
mystery in our romances, our poetry, our art, and, above all, in our
metaphysics, must come under that definition so long ago given by
the great Greek, "speaking ingeniously concerning smoke." And much
of the instinct, which, partially developed in painting, may be now
seen throughout every mode of exertion of mind,--the easily
encouraged doubt, easily excited curiosity, habitual agitation, and
delight in the changing and the marvellous, as opposed to the old
quiet serenity of social custom and religious faith,--is again
deeply defined in those few words, the "dethroning of Jupiter," the
"coronation of the whirlwind."

§ 4. Nor of whirlwind merely, but also of darkness or ignorance
respecting all stable facts. That darkening of the foreground to
bring out the white cloud, is, in one aspect of it, a type of the
subjection of all plain and positive fact, to what is uncertain and
unintelligible. And as we examine farther into the matter, we shall
be struck by another great difference between the old and modern
landscape, namely, that in the old no one ever thought of drawing
anything but as well _as he could_. That might not be _well_, as we
have seen in the case of rocks; but it was as well as he _could_,
and always distinctly. Leaf, or stone, or animal, or man, it was
equally drawn with care and clearness, and its essential characters
shown. If it was an oak tree, the acorns were drawn; if a flint
pebble, its veins were drawn; if an arm of the sea, its fish were
drawn; if a group of figures, their faces and dresses were drawn--to
the very last subtlety of expression and end of thread that could be
got into the space, far off or near. But now our ingenuity is all
"concerning smoke." Nothing is truly drawn but that; all else is
vague, slight, imperfect; got with as little pains as possible. You
examine your closest foreground, and find no leaves; your largest
oak, and find no acorns; your human figure, and find a spot of red
paint instead of a face; and in all this, again and again, the
Aristophanic words come true, and the clouds seem to be "great
goddesses to idle men."

§ 5. The next thing that will strike us, after this love of clouds, is
the love of liberty. Whereas the mediæval was always shutting himself
into castles, and behind fosses, and drawing brickwork neatly, and
beds of flowers primly, our painters delight in getting to the open
fields and moors; abhor all hedges and moats; never paint anything but
free-growing trees, and rivers gliding "at their own sweet will;"
eschew formality down to the smallest detail; break and displace the
brickwork which the mediæval would have carefully cemented; leave
unpruned the thickets he would have delicately trimmed; and, carrying
the love of liberty even to license, and the love of wildness even to
ruin, take pleasure at last in every aspect of age and desolation
which emancipates the objects of nature from the government of
men;--on the castle wall displacing its tapestry with ivy, and
spreading, through the garden, the bramble for the rose.

§ 6. Connected with this love of liberty we find a singular
manifestation of love of mountains, and see our painters traversing
the wildest places of the globe in order to obtain subjects with
craggy foregrounds and purple distances. Some few of them remain
content with pollards and flat land; but these are always men of
third-rate order; and the leading masters, while they do not reject
the beauty of the low grounds, reserve their highest powers to paint
Alpine peaks or Italian promontories. And it is eminently
noticeable, also, that this pleasure in the mountains is never
mingled with fear, or tempered by a spirit of meditation, as with
the mediæval; but it is always free and fearless, brightly
exhilarating, and wholly unreflective; so that the painter feels
that his mountain foreground may be more consistently animated by a
sportsman than a hermit; and our modern society in general goes to
the mountains, not to fast, but to feast, and leaves their glaciers
covered with chicken-bones and egg-shells.

§ 7. Connected with this want of any sense of solemnity in mountain
scenery, is a general profanity of temper in regarding all the rest
of nature; that is to say, a total absence of faith in the presence
of any deity therein. Whereas the mediæval never painted a cloud,
but with the purpose of placing an angel in it; and a Greek never
entered a wood without expecting to meet a god in it; _we_ should
think the appearance of an angel in the cloud wholly unnatural, and
should be seriously surprised by meeting a god anywhere. Our chief
ideas about the wood are connected with poaching. We have no belief
that the clouds contain more than so many inches of rain or hail,
and from our ponds and ditches expect nothing more divine than ducks
and watercresses.

§ 8. Finally: connected with this profanity of temper is a strong
tendency to deny the sacred element of color, and make our boast in
blackness. For though occasionally glaring, or violent, modern color
is on the whole eminently sombre, tending continually to grey or
brown, and by many of our best painters consistently falsified, with
a confessed pride in what they call chaste or subdued tints; so
that, whereas a mediæval paints his sky bright blue, and his
foreground bright green, gilds the towers of his castles, and
clothes his figures with purple and white, we paint our sky grey,
our foreground black, and our foliage brown, and think that enough
is sacrificed to the sun in admitting the dangerous brightness of a
scarlet cloak or a blue jacket.

§ 9. These, I believe, are the principal points which would strike
us instantly, if we were to be brought suddenly into an exhibition
of modern landscapes out of a room filled with mediæval work. It is
evident that there are both evil and good in this change; but how
much evil, or how much good, we can only estimate by considering, as
in the former divisions of our inquiry, what are the real roots of
the habits of mind which have caused them.

[Sidenote: Distinctive characters of the modern mind:]

And first, it is evident that the title "Dark Ages," given to the
mediæval centuries, is, respecting art, wholly inapplicable. They
were, on the contrary, the bright ages; ours are the dark ones. I do
not mean metaphysically, but literally. They were the ages of gold:
ours are the ages of umber.

[Sidenote: 1. Despondency arising from faithlessness.]

This is partly mere mistake in us; we build brown brick walls, and
wear brown coats, because we have been blunderingly taught to do so,
and go on doing so mechanically. There is, however, also some cause
for the change in our own tempers. On the whole, these are much
_sadder_ ages than the early ones; not sadder in a noble and deep way,
but in a dim, wearied way,--the way of ennui, and jaded intellect, and
uncomfortableness of soul and body. The Middle Ages had their wars and
agonies, but also intense delights. Their gold was dashed with blood;
but ours is sprinkled with dust. Their life was interwoven with white
and purple; ours is one seamless stuff of brown. Not that we are
without apparent festivity, but festivity more or less forced,
mistaken, embittered, incomplete--not of the heart. How wonderfully,
since Shakspere's time, have we lost the power of laughing at bad
jests! The very finish of our wit belies our gaiety.

§ 10. The profoundest reason of this darkness of heart is, I believe,
our want of faith. There never yet was a generation of men (savage or
civilized) who, taken as a body, so wofully fulfilled the words,
"having no hope, and without God in the world," as the present
civilized European race. A Red Indian or Otaheitan savage has more
sense of a Divine existence round him, or government over him, than
the plurality of refined Londoners and Parisians; and those among us
who may in some sense be said to believe, are divided almost without
exception into two broad classes, Romanist and Puritan; who, but for
the interference of the unbelieving portions of society, would, either
of them, reduce the other sect as speedily as possible to ashes; the
Romanist having always done so whenever he could, from the beginning
of their separation, and the Puritan at this time holding himself in
complacent expectation of the destruction of Rome by volcanic fire.
Such division as this between persons nominally of one religion, that
is to say, believing in the same God, and the same Revelation, cannot
but become a stumbling-block of the gravest kind to all thoughtful and
far-sighted men,--a stumbling-block which they can only surmount under
the most favorable circumstances of early education. Hence, nearly all
our powerful men in this age of the world are unbelievers; the best of
them in doubt and misery; the worst in reckless defiance; the
plurality in plodding hesitation, doing, as well as they can, what
practical work lies ready to their hands. Most of our scientific men
are in this last class; our popular authors either set themselves
definitely against all religious form, pleading for simple truth and
benevolence (Thackeray, Dickens), or give themselves up to bitter and
fruitless statement of facts (De Balzac), or surface-painting (Scott),
or careless blasphemy, sad or smiling (Byron, Beranger). Our earnest
poets, and deepest thinkers, are doubtful and indignant (Tennyson,
Carlyle); one or two, anchored, indeed, but anxious, or weeping
(Wordsworth, Mrs. Browning); and of these two, the first is not so
sure of his anchor, but that now and then it drags with him, even to
make him cry out,--

                        "Great God, I had rather be
      A Pagan suckled in some creed outworn:
        So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
      Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn."

In politics, religion is now a name; in art, a hypocrisy or
affectation. Over German religious pictures the inscription, "See
how Pious I am," can be read at a glance by any clear-sighted
person. Over French and English religious pictures, the inscription,
"See how Impious I am," is equally legible. All sincere and modest
art is, among us, profane.[84]

[Sidenote: § 11. 2. Levity from the same cause.]

This faithlessness operates among us according to our tempers,
producing either sadness or levity, and being the ultimate root
alike of our discontents and of our wantonnesses. It is marvellous
how full of contradiction it makes us; we are first dull, and seek
for wild and lonely places because we have no heart for the garden;
presently we recover our spirits, and build an assembly room among
the mountains, because we have no reverence for the desert. I do not
know if there be game on Sinai, but I am always expecting to hear of
some one's shooting over it.

§ 12. There is, however, another, and a more innocent root of our
delight in wild scenery.

[Sidenote: 3. Reactionary love of inanimate beauty.]

All the Renaissance principles of art tended, as I have before often
explained, to the setting Beauty above Truth, and seeking for it
always at the expense of truth. And the proper punishment of such
pursuit--the punishment which all the laws of the universe rendered
inevitable--was, that those who thus pursued beauty should wholly lose
sight of beauty. All the thinkers of the age, as we saw previously,
declared that it did not exist. The age seconded their efforts, and
banished beauty, so far as human effort could succeed in doing so,
from the face of the earth, and the form of man. To powder the hair,
to patch the cheek, to hoop the body, to buckle the foot, were all
part and parcel of the same system which reduced streets to brick
walls, and pictures to brown stains. One desert of Ugliness was
extended before the eyes of mankind; and their pursuit of the
beautiful, so recklessly continued, received unexpected consummation
in high-heeled shoes and periwigs,--Gower Street, and Gaspar Poussin.

§ 13. Reaction from this state was inevitable, if any true life was
left in the races of mankind; and, accordingly, though still forced,
by rule and fashion, to the producing and wearing all that is ugly,
men steal out, half-ashamed of themselves for doing so, to the
fields and mountains; and, finding among these the color, and
liberty, and variety, and power, which are for ever grateful to
them, delight in these to an extent never before known; rejoice in
all the wildest shattering of the mountain side, as an opposition to
Gower Street; gaze in a rapt manner at sunsets and sunrises, to see
there the blue, and gold, and purple, which glow for them no longer
on knight's armor or temple porch; and gather with care out of the
fields, into their blotted herbaria, the flowers which the five
orders of architecture have banished from their doors and casements.

[Sidenote: § 14. 4. Disdain of beauty in man.]

The absence of care for personal beauty, which is another great
characteristic of the age, adds to this feeling in a twofold way:
first, by turning all reverent thoughts away from human nature; and
making us think of men as ridiculous or ugly creatures, getting
through the world as well as they can, and spoiling it in doing so;
not ruling it in a kingly way and crowning all its loveliness. In
the Middle Ages hardly anything but vice could be caricatured,
because virtue was always visibly and personally noble; now virtue
itself is apt to inhabit such poor human bodies, that no aspect of
it is invulnerable to jest; and for all fairness we have to seek to
the flowers, for all sublimity, to the hills.

The same want of care operates, in another way, by lowering the
standard of health, increasing the susceptibility to nervous or
sentimental impressions, and thus adding to the other powers of
nature over us whatever charm may be felt in her fostering the
melancholy fancies of brooding idleness.

[Sidenote: § 15. 5. Romantic imagination of the past.]

It is not, however, only to existing inanimate nature that our want
of beauty in person and dress has driven us. The imagination of it,
as it was seen in our ancestors, haunts us continually; and while we
yield to the present fashions, or act in accordance with the dullest
modern principles of economy and utility, we look fondly back to the
manners of the ages of chivalry, and delight in painting, to the
fancy, the fashions we pretend to despise, and the splendors we
think it wise to abandon. The furniture and personages of our
romance are sought, when the writer desires to please most easily,
in the centuries which we profess to have surpassed in everything;
the art which takes us into the present times is considered as both
daring and degraded; and while the weakest words please us, and are
regarded as poetry, which recall the manners of our forefathers, or
of strangers, it is only as familiar and vulgar that we accept the
description of our own.

In this we are wholly different from all the races that preceded us.
All other nations have regarded their ancestors with reverence as
saints or heroes; but have nevertheless thought their own deeds and
ways of life the fitting subjects for their arts of painting or of
verse. We, on the contrary, regard our ancestors as foolish and
wicked, but yet find our chief artistic pleasures in descriptions of
their ways of life.

The Greeks and mediævals honored, but did not imitate, their
forefathers; we imitate, but do not honor.

[Sidenote: § 16. 6. Interest in science.]

[Sidenote: 7. Fear of war.]

With this romantic love of beauty, forced to seek in history, and in
external nature, the satisfaction it cannot find in ordinary life,
we mingle a more rational passion, the due and just result of newly
awakened powers of attention. Whatever may first lead us to the
scrutiny of natural objects, that scrutiny never fails of its
reward. Unquestionably they are intended to be regarded by us with
both reverence and delight; and every hour we give to them renders
their beauty more apparent, and their interest more engrossing.
Natural science--which can hardly be considered to have existed
before modern times--rendering our knowledge fruitful in
accumulation and exquisite in accuracy, has acted for good or evil,
according to the temper of the mind which received it; and though it
has hardened the faithlessness of the dull and proud, has shown new
grounds for reverence to hearts which were thoughtful and humble.
The neglect of the art of war, while it has somewhat weakened and
deformed the body,[85] has given us leisure and opportunity for
studies to which, before, time and space were equally wanting; lives
which once were early wasted on the battle field are now passed
usefully in the study; nations which exhausted themselves in annual
warfare now dispute with each other the discovery of new planets;
and the serene philosopher dissects the plants, and analyzes the
dust, of lands which were of old only traversed by the knight in
hasty march, or by the borderer in heedless rapine.

§ 17. The elements of progress and decline being thus strangely
mingled in the modern mind, we might beforehand anticipate that one
of the notable characters of our art would be its inconsistency;
that efforts would be made in every direction, and arrested by every
conceivable cause and manner of failure; that in all we did, it
would become next to impossible to distinguish accurately the
grounds for praise or for regret; that all previous canons of
practice and methods of thought would be gradually overthrown, and
criticism continually defied by successes which no one had expected,
and sentiments which no one could define.

§ 18. Accordingly, while, in our inquiries into Greek and mediæval
art, I was able to describe, in general terms, what all men did or
felt, I find now many characters in many men; some, it seems to me,
founded on the inferior and evanescent principles of modernism, on
its recklessness, impatience, or faithlessness; others founded on
its science, its new affection for nature, its love of openness and
liberty. And among all these characters, good or evil, I see that
some, remaining to us from old or transitional periods, do not
properly belong to us, and will soon fade away; and others, though
not yet distinctly developed, are yet properly our own, and likely
to grow forward into greater strength.

For instance: our reprobation of bright color is, I think, for the
most part, mere affectation, and must soon be done away with.
Vulgarity, dulness, or impiety, will indeed always express
themselves through art in brown and grey, as in Rembrandt,
Caravaggio, and Salvator; but we are not wholly vulgar, dull, or
impious; nor, as moderns, are we necessarily obliged to continue so
in any wise. Our greatest men, whether sad or gay, still delight,
like the great men of all ages, in brilliant hues. The coloring of
Scott and Byron is full and pure; that of Keats and Tennyson rich
even to excess. Our practical failures in coloring are merely the
necessary consequences of our prolonged want of practice during the
periods of Renaissance affectation and ignorance; and the only
durable difference between old and modern coloring, is the
acceptance of certain hues, by the modern, which please him by
expressing that melancholy peculiar to his more reflective or
sentimental character, and the greater variety of them necessary to
express his greater science.

§ 19. Again: if we ever become wise enough to dress consistently and
gracefully, to make health a principal object in education, and to
render our streets beautiful with art, the external charm of past
history will in great measure disappear. There is no essential
reason, because we live after the fatal seventeenth century, that we
should never again be able to confess interest in sculpture, or see
brightness in embroidery; nor, because now we choose to make the
night deadly with our pleasures, and the day with our labors,
prolonging the dance till dawn, and the toil to twilight, that we
should never again learn how rightly to employ the sacred trusts of
strength, beauty, and time. Whatever external charm attaches itself
to the past, would then be seen in proper subordination to the
brightness of present life; and the elements of romance would exist,
in the earlier ages, only in the attraction which must generally
belong to whatever is unfamiliar; in the reverence which a noble
nation always pays to its ancestors; and in the enchanted light
which races, like individuals, must perceive in looking back to the
days of their childhood.

§ 20. Again: the peculiar levity with which natural scenery is
regarded by a large number of modern minds cannot be considered as
entirely characteristic of the age, inasmuch as it never can belong
to its greatest intellects. Men of any high mental power must be
serious, whether in ancient or modern days: a certain degree of
reverence for fair scenery is found in all our great writers without
exception,--even the one who has made us laugh oftenest, taking us
to the valley of Chamouni, and to the sea beach, there to give peace
after suffering, and change revenge into pity.[86] It is only the
dull, the uneducated, or the worldly, whom it is painful to meet on
the hill sides; and levity, as a ruling character, cannot be
ascribed to the whole nation, but only to its holiday-making
apprentices, and its House of Commons.

§ 21. We need not, therefore, expect to find any single poet or
painter representing the entire group of powers, weaknesses, and
inconsistent instincts which govern or confuse our modern life. But
we may expect that in the man who seems to be given by Providence as
the type of the age (as Homer and Dante were given, as the types of
classical and mediæval mind), we shall find whatever is fruitful and
substantial to be completely present, together with those of our
weaknesses, which are indeed nationally characteristic, and
compatible with general greatness of mind; just as the weak love of
fences, and dislike of mountains, were found compatible with Dante's
greatness in other respects.

§ 22. Farther: as the admiration of mankind is found, in our times,
to have in great part passed from men to mountains, and from human
emotion to natural phenomena, we may anticipate that the great
strength of art will also be warped in this direction; with this
notable result for us, that whereas the greatest painters or painter
of classical and mediæval periods, being wholly devoted to the
representation of humanity, furnished us with but little to examine
in landscape, the greatest painters or painter of modern times will
in all probability be devoted to landscape principally; and farther,
because in representing human emotion words surpass painting, but in
representing natural scenery painting surpasses words, we may
anticipate also that the painter and poet (for convenience' sake I
here use the words in opposition) will somewhat change their
relations of rank in illustrating the mind of the age; that the
painter will become of more importance, the poet of less; and that
the relations between the men who are the types and firstfruits of
the age in word and work,--namely, Scott and Turner,--will be, in
many curious respects, different from those between Homer and
Phidias, or Dante and Giotto.

It is this relation which we have now to examine.

§ 23. And, first, I think it probable that many readers may be
surprised at my calling Scott the great representative of the mind
of the age in literature. Those who can perceive the intense
penetrative depth of Wordsworth, and the exquisite finish and
melodious power of Tennyson, may be offended at my placing in higher
rank that poetry of careless glance, and reckless rhyme, in which
Scott poured out the fancies of his youth; and those who are
familiar with the subtle analysis of the French novelists, or who
have in any wise submitted themselves to the influence of German
philosophy, may be equally indignant at my ascribing a principality
to Scott among the literary men of Europe, in an age which has
produced De Balzac and Goethe.

So also in painting, those who are acquainted with the sentimental
efforts made at present by the German religious and historical
schools, and with the disciplined power and learning of the French,
will think it beyond all explanation absurd to call a painter of
light water-color landscapes, eighteen inches by twelve, the first
representative of the arts of the age. I can only crave the reader's
patience, and his due consideration of the following reasons for my
doing so, together with those advanced in the farther course of the

§ 24. I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility.
I do not mean, by humility, doubt of his own power, or hesitation in
speaking of his opinions; but a right understanding of the relation
between what _he_ can do and say, and the rest of the world's
sayings and doings. All great men not only know their business, but
usually know that they know it; and are not only right in their main
opinions, but they usually know that they are right in them; only,
they do not think much of themselves on that account. Arnolfo knows
he can build a good dome at Florence; Albert Durer writes calmly to
one who had found fault with his work, "It cannot be better done;"
Sir Isaac Newton knows that he has worked out a problem or two that
would have puzzled anybody else;--only they do not expect their
fellow-men therefore to fall down and worship them; they have a
curious under-sense of powerlessness, feeling that the greatness is
not _in_ them, but _through_ them; that they could not do or be
anything else than God-made them. And they see something divine and
God-made in every other man they meet, and are endlessly, foolishly,
incredibly merciful.

§ 25. Now, I find among the men of the present age, as far as I know
them, this character in Scott and Turner preeminently; I am not
sure if it is not in them alone. I do not find Scott talking about
the dignity of literature, nor Turner about the dignity of painting.
They do their work, feeling that they cannot well help it; the story
must be told, and the effect put down; and if people like it, well
and good; and if not, the world will not be much the worse.

I believe a very different impression of their estimate of
themselves and their doings will be received by any one who reads
the conversations of Wordsworth or Goethe. The _slightest_
manifestation of jealousy or self-complacency is enough to mark a
second-rate character of the intellect; and I fear that especially
in Goethe, such manifestations are neither few nor slight.

§ 26. Connected with this general humility is the total absence of
affectation in these men,--that is to say, of any assumption of
manner or behavior in their work, in order to attract attention. Not
but that they are mannerists both. Scott's verse is strongly
mannered, and Turner's oil painting; but the manner of it is
necessitated by the feelings of the men, entirely natural to both,
never exaggerated for the sake of show. I hardly know any other
literary or pictorial work of the day which is not in some degree
affected. I am afraid Wordsworth was often affected in his
simplicity, and De Balzac in his finish. Many fine French writers
are affected in their reserve, and full of stage tricks in placing
of sentences. It is lucky if in German writers we ever find so much
as a sentence without affectation. I know no painters without it,
except one or two Pre-Raphaelites (chiefly Holman Hunt), and some
simple water-color painters, as William Hunt, William Turner of
Oxford, and the late George Robson; but these last have no
invention, and therefore by our fourth canon, Chap. III. sec. 21.,
are excluded from the first rank of artists; and of the
Pre-Raphaelites there is here no question, as they in no wise
represent the modern school.

§ 27. Again: another very important, though not infallible, test of
greatness is, as we have often said, the appearance of Ease with
which the thing is done. It may be that, as with Dante and Leonardo,
the finish given to the work effaces the evidence of ease; but where
the ease is manifest, as in Scott, Turner, and Tintoret; and the
thing done is very noble, it is a strong reason for placing the men
above those who confessedly work with great pains. Scott writing his
chapter or two before breakfast--not retouching, Turner finishing a
whole drawing in a forenoon before he goes out to shoot (providing
always the chapter and drawing be good), are instantly to be set
above men who confessedly have spent the day over the work, and
think the hours well spent if it has been a little mended between
sunrise and sunset. Indeed, it is no use for men to think to appear
great by working fast, dashing, and scrawling; the thing they do
must be good and great, cost what time it may; but if it _be_ so,
and they have honestly and unaffectedly done it with _no effort_, it
is probably a greater and better thing than the result of the
hardest efforts of others.

§ 28. Then, as touching the kind of work done by these two men, the
more I think of it I find this conclusion more impressed upon
me,--that the greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is
to _see_ something, and tell what it _saw_ in a plain way. Hundreds
of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think
for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and
religion,--all in one.

Therefore, finding the world of Literature more or less divided into
Thinkers and Seers, I believe we shall find also that the Seers are
wholly the greater race of the two. A true Thinker, who has practical
purpose in his thinking, and is sincere, as Plato, or Carlyle, or
Helps, becomes in some sort a seer, and must be always of infinite use
in his generation; but an affected Thinker, who supposes his thinking
of any other importance than as it tends to work, is about the vainest
kind of person that can be found in the occupied classes. Nay, I
believe that metaphysicians and philosophers are, on the whole, the
greatest troubles the world has got to deal with; and that while a
tyrant or bad man is of some use in teaching people submission or
indignation, and a thoroughly idle man is only harmful in setting an
idle example, and communicating to other lazy people his own lazy
misunderstandings, busy metaphysicians are always entangling _good_
and _active_ people, and weaving cobwebs among the finest wheels of
the world's business; and are as much as possible, by all prudent
persons, to be brushed out of their way, like spiders, and the meshed
weed that has got into the Cambridgeshire canals, and other such
impediments to barges and business. And if we thus clear the
metaphysical element out of modern literature, we shall find its bulk
amazingly diminished, and the claims of the remaining writers, or of
those whom we have thinned by this abstraction of their straw
stuffing, much more easily adjusted.[87]

§ 29. Again: the mass of sentimental literature, concerned with the
analysis and description of emotion, headed by the poetry of Byron,
is altogether of lower rank than the literature which merely
describes what it saw. The true Seer always feels as intensely as
any one else; but he does not much describe his feelings. He tells
you whom he met, and what they said; leaves you to make out, from
that, what they feel, and what he feels, but goes into little
detail. And, generally speaking, pathetic writing and careful
explanation of passion are quite easy, compared with this plain
recording of what people said or did, or with the right invention of
what they are likely to say and do; for this reason, that to invent
a story, or admirably and thoroughly tell any part of a story, it is
necessary to grasp the entire mind of every personage concerned in
it, and know precisely how they would be affected by what happens;
which to do requires a colossal intellect; but to describe a
separate emotion delicately, it is only needed that one should feel
it oneself; and thousands of people are capable of feeling this or
that noble emotion, for one who is able to enter into all the
feelings of somebody sitting on the other side of the table. Even,
therefore, when this sentimental literature is first rate, as in
passages of Byron, Tennyson, and Keats, it ought not to be ranked so
high as the Creative; and though perfection, even in narrow fields,
is perhaps as rare as in the wider, and it may be as long before we
have another In Memoriam as another Guy Mannering, I unhesitatingly
receive as a greater manifestation of power the right invention of a
few sentences spoken by Pleydell and Mannering across their
supper-table, than the most tender and passionate melodies of the
self-examining verse.

§ 30. Having, therefore, cast metaphysical writers out of our way,
and sentimental writers into the second rank, I do not think Scott's
supremacy among those who remain will any more be doubtful; nor
would it, perhaps, have been doubtful before, had it not been
encumbered by innumerable faults and weaknesses. But it is
preeminently in these faults and weaknesses that Scott is
representative of the mind of his age: and because he is the
greatest man born amongst us, and intended for the enduring type of
us, all our principal faults must be laid on his shoulders, and he
must bear down the dark marks to the latest ages; while the smaller
men, who have some special work to do, perhaps not so much belonging
to this age as leading out of it to the next, are often kept
providentially quit of the encumbrances which they had not strength
to sustain, and are much smoother and pleasanter to look at, in
their way; only that is a smaller way.

§ 31. Thus, the most startling fault of the age being its
faithlessness, it is necessary that its greatest man should be
faithless. Nothing is more notable or sorrowful in Scott's mind than
its incapacity of steady belief in anything. He cannot even resolve
hardily to believe in a ghost, or a water-spirit; always explains
them away in an apologetic manner, not believing, all the while,
even his own explanation. He never can clearly ascertain whether
there is anything behind the arras but rats; never draws sword, and
thrusts at it for life or death; but goes on looking at it timidly,
and saying, "it must be the wind." He is educated a Presbyterian,
and remains one, because it is the most sensible thing he can do if
he is to live in Edinburgh; but he thinks Romanism more picturesque,
and profaneness more gentlemanly: does not see that anything affects
human life but love, courage, and destiny; which are, indeed, not
matters of faith at all, but of sight. Any gods but those are very
misty in outline to him; and when the love is laid ghastly in poor
Charlotte's coffin; and the courage is no more of use,--the pen
having fallen from between the fingers; and destiny is sealing the
scroll,--the God-light is dim in the tears that fall on it.

He is in all this the epitome of his epoch.

§ 32. Again: as another notable weakness of the age is its habit of
looking back, in a romantic and passionate idleness, to the past ages,
not understanding them all the while, nor really desiring to
understand them, so Scott gives up nearly the half of his intellectual
power to a fond, yet purposeless, dreaming over the past, and spends
half his literary labors in endeavors to revive it, not in reality,
but on the stage of fiction; endeavors which were the best of the
kind that modernism made, but still successful only so far as Scott
put, under the old armor, the everlasting human nature which he knew;
and totally unsuccessful, so far as concerned the painting of the
armor itself, which he knew _not_. The excellence of Scott's work is
precisely in proportion to the degree in which it is sketched from
present nature. His familiar life is inimitable; his quiet scenes of
introductory conversation, as the beginning of Rob Roy and
Redgauntlet, and all his living Scotch characters, mean or noble, from
Andrew Fairservice to Jeanie Deans, are simply right, and can never be
bettered. But his romance and antiquarianism, his knighthood and
monkery, are all false, and he knows them to be false; does not care
to make them earnest; enjoys them for their strangeness, but laughs at
his own antiquarianism, all through his own third novel,--with
exquisite modesty indeed, but with total misunderstanding of the
function of an Antiquary. He does not see how anything is to be got
out of the past but confusion, old iron on drawingroom chairs, and
serious inconvenience to Dr. Heavysterne.

§ 33. Again: more than any age that had preceded it, ours had been
ignorant of the meaning of the word "Art." It had not a single fixed
principle, and what unfixed principles it worked upon were all wrong.
It was necessary that Scott should know nothing of art. He neither
cared for painting nor sculpture, and was totally incapable of forming
a judgment about them. He had some confused love of Gothic
architecture, because it was dark, picturesque, old, and like nature;
but could not tell the worst from the best, and built for himself
perhaps the most incongruous and ugly pile that gentlemanly modernism
ever designed; marking, in the most curious and subtle way, that
mingling of reverence with irreverence which is so striking in the
age; he reverences Melrose, yet casts one of its piscinas, puts a
modern steel grate into it, and makes it his fireplace. Like all pure
moderns, he supposes the Gothic barbarous, notwithstanding his love of
it; admires, in an equally ignorant way, totally opposite styles; is
delighted with the new town of Edinburgh; mistakes its dulness for
purity of taste, and actually compares it, in its deathful formality
of street, as contrasted with the rudeness of the old town, to
Britomart taking off her armor.

§ 34. Again: as in reverence and irreverence, so in levity and
melancholy, we saw that the spirit of the age was strangely
interwoven. Therefore, also, it is necessary that Scott should be
light, careless, unearnest, and yet eminently sorrowful. Throughout
all his work there is no evidence of any purpose but to while away
the hour. His life had no other object than the pleasure of the
instant, and the establishing of a family name. All his thoughts
were, in their outcome and end, less than nothing, and vanity. And
yet, of all poetry that I know, none is so sorrowful as Scott's.
Other great masters are pathetic in a resolute and predetermined
way, when they choose; but, in their own minds, are evidently stern,
or hopeful, or serene; never really melancholy. Even Byron is rather
sulky and desperate than melancholy; Keats is sad because he is
sickly; Shelley because he is impious; but Scott is inherently and
consistently sad. Around all his power, and brightness, and
enjoyment of eye and heart, the far-away Æolian knell is for ever
sounding; there is not one of those loving or laughing glances of
his but it is brighter for the film of tears; his mind is like one
of his own hill rivers,--it is white, and flashes in the sun fairly,
careless, as it seems, and hasty in its going, but

      "Far beneath, where slow they creep
      From pool to eddy, dark and deep,
      Where alders moist, and willows weep,
          You hear her streams repine."

Life begins to pass from him very early; and while Homer sings
cheerfully in his blindness, and Dante retains his courage, and
rejoices in hope of Paradise, through all his exile, Scott, yet
hardly past his youth, lies pensive in the sweet sunshine and among
the harvest of his native hills.

      "Blackford, on whose uncultured breast,
        Among the broom, and thorn, and whin,
      A truant boy, I sought the nest,
      Or listed as I lay at rest,
        While rose on breezes thin
      The murmur of the city crowd,
      And, from his steeple jangling loud,
        St. Giles's mingling din!
      Now, from the summit to the plain,
      Waves all the hill with yellow grain;
        And on the landscape as I look,
      Nought do I see unchanged remain,
        Save the rude cliffs and chiming brook;
      To me they make a heavy moan
      Of early friendships past and gone."

§ 35. Such, then, being the weaknesses which it was necessary that
Scott should share with his age, in order that he might sufficiently
represent it, and such the grounds for supposing him, in spite of
all these weaknesses, the greatest literary man whom that age
produced, let us glance at the principal points in which his view of
landscape differs from that of the mediævals.

I shall not endeavor now, as I did with Homer and Dante, to give a
complete analysis of all the feelings which appear to be traceable
in Scott's allusions to landscape scenery,--for this would require a
volume,--but only to indicate the main points of differing character
between his temper and Dante's. Then we will examine in detail, not
the landscape of literature, but that of painting, which must, of
course, be equally, or even in a higher degree, characteristic of
the age.

§ 36. And, first, observe Scott's habit of looking at nature neither
as dead, or merely material, in the way that Homer regards it, nor
as altered by his own feelings, in the way that Keats and Tennyson
regard it, but as having an animation and pathos of _its own_,
wholly irrespective of human presence or passion,--an animation
which Scott loves and sympathizes with, as he would with a fellow
creature, forgetting himself altogether, and subduing his own
humanity before what seems to him the power of the landscape.

      "Yon lonely thorn,--would he could tell
      The changes of his parent dell,
      Since he, so grey and stubborn now,
      Waved in each breeze a sapling bough!
      Would he could tell, how deep the shade
      A thousand mingled branches made,
      How broad the shadows of the oak,
      How clung the rowan to the rock,
      And through the foliage showed his head,
      With narrow leaves and berries red!"

Scott does not dwell on the grey stubbornness of the thorn, because he
himself is at that moment disposed to be dull, or stubborn; neither on
the cheerful peeping forth of the rowan, because he himself is that
moment cheerful or curious: but he perceives them both with the kind
of interest that he would take in an old man, or a climbing boy;
forgetting himself, in sympathy with either age or youth.

      "And from the grassy slope he sees
      The Greta flow to meet the Tees,
      Where issuing from her darksome bed,
      She caught the morning's eastern red,
      And through the softening vale below
      Rolled her bright waves in rosy glow,
      All blushing to her bridal bed,
      Like some shy maid, in convent bred;
          While linnet, lark, and blackbird gay
      Sing forth her nuptial roundelay."

Is Scott, or are the persons of his story, gay at this moment? Far
from it. Neither Scott nor Risingham are happy, but the Greta is;
and all Scott's sympathy is ready for the Greta, on the instant.

§ 37. Observe, therefore, this is not _pathetic_ fallacy; for there
is no passion in _Scott_ which alters nature. It is not the lover's
passion, making him think the larkspurs are listening for his lady's
foot; it is not the miser's passion, making him think that dead
leaves are falling coins; but it is an inherent and continual habit
of thought, which Scott shares with the moderns in general, being,
in fact, nothing else than the instinctive sense which men must have
of the Divine presence, not formed into distinct belief. In the
Greek it created, as we saw, the faithfully believed gods of the
elements: in Dante and the mediævals, it formed the faithfully
believed angelic presence; in the modern, it creates no perfect
form, does not apprehend distinctly any Divine being or operation;
but only a dim, slightly credited animation in the natural object,
accompanied with great interest and affection for it. This feeling
is quite universal with us, only varying in depth according to the
greatness of the heart that holds it; and in Scott, being more than
usually intense, and accompanied with infinite affection and
quickness of sympathy, it enables him to conquer all tendencies to
the pathetic fallacy, and, instead of making Nature anywise
subordinate to himself, he makes himself subordinate to
_her_--follows her lead simply--does not venture to bring his own
cares and thoughts into her pure and quiet presence--paints her in
her simple and universal truth, adding no result of momentary
passion or fancy, and appears, therefore, at first shallower than
other poets, being in reality wider and healthier. "What am I?" he
says continually, "that I should trouble this sincere nature with my
thoughts. I happen to be feverish and depressed, and I could see a
great many sad and strange things in those waves and flowers; but I
have no business to see such things. Gay Greta! sweet harebells!
_you_ are not sad nor strange to most people; you are but bright
water and blue blossoms; you shall not be anything else to me,
except that I cannot help thinking you are a little alive,--no one
can help thinking that." And thus, as Nature is bright, serene, or
gloomy, Scott takes her temper, and paints her as she is; nothing of
himself being ever intruded, except that far-away Eolian tone, of
which he is unconscious; and sometimes a stray syllable or two, like
that about Blackford Hill, distinctly stating personal feeling, but
all the more modestly for that distinctness and for the clear
consciousness that it is not the chiming brook, nor the cornfields,
that are sad, but only the boy that rests by them; so returning on
the instant to reflect, in all honesty, the image of Nature as she
is meant by all to be received; nor that in fine words, but in the
first that come; nor with comment of far-fetched thoughts, but with
easy thoughts, such as all sensible men ought to have in such
places, only spoken sweetly; and evidently also with an undercurrent
of more profound reflection, which here and there murmurs for a
moment, and which I think, if we choose, we may continually pierce
down to, and drink deeply from, but which Scott leaves us to seek,
or shun, at our pleasure.

§ 38. And in consequence of this unselfishness and humility, Scott's
enjoyment of Nature is incomparably greater than that of any other
poet I know. All the rest carry their cares to her, and begin
maundering in her ears about their own affairs. Tennyson goes out on
a furzy common, and sees it is calm autumn sunshine, but it gives
him no pleasure. He only remembers that it is

            "Dead calm in that noble breast
      Which heaves but with the heaving deep."

He sees a thundercloud in the evening, and _would_ have "doted and
pored" on it, but cannot, for fear it should bring the ship bad
weather. Keats drinks the beauty of Nature violently; but has no more
real sympathy with her than he has with a bottle of claret. His palate
is fine; but he "bursts joy's grape against it," gets nothing but
misery, and a bitter taste of dregs out of his desperate draught.

Byron and Shelley are nearly the same, only with less truth of
perception, and even more troublesome selfishness. Wordsworth is more
like Scott, and understands how to be happy, but yet cannot altogether
rid himself of the sense that he is a philosopher, and ought always to
be saying something wise. He has also a vague notion that Nature would
not be able to get on well without Wordsworth; and finds a
considerable part of his pleasure in looking at himself as well as at
her. But with Scott the love is entirely humble and unselfish. "I,
Scott, am nothing, and less than nothing; but these crags, and heaths,
and clouds, how great they are, how lovely, how for ever to be
beloved, only for their own silent, thoughtless sake!"

§ 39. This pure passion for nature in its abstract being, is still
increased in its intensity by the two elements above taken notice
of,--the love of antiquity, and the love of color and beautiful form,
mortified in our streets, and seeking for food in the wilderness and
the ruin: both feelings, observe, instinctive in Scott from his
childhood, as everything that makes a man great is always.

      "And well the lonely infant knew
      Recesses where the wallflower grew,
      And honeysuckle loved to crawl
      Up the long crag and ruined wall.
      I deemed such nooks the sweetest shade
      The sun in all its round surveyed."

Not that these could have been instinctive in a child in the Middle
Ages. The sentiments of a people increase or diminish in intensity
from generation to generation,--every disposition of the parents
affecting the frame of the mind in their offspring: the soldier's
child is born to be yet more a soldier, and the politician's to be
still more a politician; even the slightest colors of sentiment and
affection are transmitted to the heirs of life; and the crowning
expression of the mind of a people is given when some infant of
highest capacity, and sealed with the impress of this national
character, is born where providential circumstances permit the full
development of the powers it has received straight from Heaven, and
the passions which it has inherited from its fathers.

§ 40. This love of ancientness, and that of natural beauty,
associate themselves also in Scott with the love of liberty, which
was indeed at the root even of all his Jacobite tendencies in
politics. For, putting aside certain predilections about landed
property, and family name, and "gentlemanliness" in the club sense
of the word,--respecting which I do not now inquire whether they
were weak or wise,--the main element which makes Scott like
Cavaliers better than Puritans is, that he thinks the former _free_
and _masterful_ as well as loyal; and the latter _formal_ and
_slavish_. He is loyal, not so much in respect for law, as in
unselfish love for the king; and his sympathy is quite as ready for
any active borderer who breaks the law, or fights the king, in what
Scott thinks a generous way, as for the king himself. Rebellion of a
rough, free, and bold kind he is always delighted by; he only
objects to rebellion on principle and in form: bare-headed and
open-throated treason he will abet to any extent, but shrinks from
it in a peaked hat and starched collar: nay, politically, he only
delights in kingship itself, because he looks upon it as the head
and centre of liberty; and thinks that, keeping hold of a king's
hand, one may get rid of the cramps and fences of law; and that the
people may be governed by the whistle, as a Highland clan on the
open hill-side, instead of being shut up into hurdled folds or
hedged fields, as sheep or cattle left masterless.

§ 41. And thus nature becomes dear to Scott in a threefold way: dear
to him, first, as containing those remains or memories of the past,
which he cannot find in cities, and giving hope of Prætorian mound
or knight's grave, in every green slope and shade of its desolate
places;--dear, secondly, in its moorland liberty, which has for him
just as high a charm as the fenced garden had for the mediæval:

      "For I was wayward, bold, and wild,
      A self-willed imp--a grandame's child;
      But, half a plague, and half a jest,
      Was still endured, beloved, caressed.
      For me, thus nurtured, dost thou ask
      The classic poet's well-conned task?
      Nay, Erskine, nay. On the wild hill
      Let the wild heathbell flourish still;
      Cherish the tulip, prune the vine;
      But freely let the woodbine twine,
      And leave untrimmed the eglantine;"

--and dear to him, finally, in that perfect beauty, denied alike in
cities and in men, for which every modern heart had begun at last to
thirst, and Scott's, in its freshness and power, of all men's, most

§ 42. And in this love of beauty, observe, that (as I said we might
except) the love of _color_ is a leading element, his healthy mind
being incapable of losing, under any modern false teaching, its joy
in brilliancy of hue. Though not so subtle a colorist as Dante,
which, under the circumstances of the age, he could not be, he
depends quite as much upon color for his power or pleasure. And, in
general, if he does not mean to say much about things, the _one_
character which he will give is color, using it with the most
perfect mastery and faithfulness, up to the point of possible modern
perception. For instance, if he has a sea-storm to paint in a single
line, he does not, as a feebler poet would probably have done, use
any expression about the temper or form of the waves; does not call
them angry or mountainous. He is content to strike them out with two
dashes of Tintoret's favorite colors:

      "_The blackening wave edged with white_;
      To inch and rock the seamews fly."

There is no form in this. Nay, the main virtue of it is, that it
gets rid of all form. The dark raging of the sea--what form has
that? But out of the cloud of its darkness those lightning flashes
of the foam, coming at their terrible intervals--you need no more.

Again: where he has to describe tents mingled among oaks, he says
nothing about the form of either tent or tree, but only gives the
two strokes of color:

      "Thousand pavilions, _white as snow_,
      _Chequered_ the borough moor below,
      Oft giving way, where still there stood
      Some relics of the old oak wood,
      That darkly huge did intervene,
      _And tamed the glaring white with green_."

Again: of tents at Flodden:

      "Next morn the Baron climbed the tower,
      To view, afar, the Scottish power,
        Encamped on Flodden edge.
      The white pavilions made a show,
      Like remnants of the winter snow,
        Along the dusky ridge."

Again: of trees mingled with dark rocks:

      "Until, where Teith's young waters roll
      Betwixt him and a wooded knoll,
      That graced the _sable_ strath with _green_,
      The chapel of St. Bride was seen."

Again: there is hardly any form, only smoke and color, in his
celebrated description of Edinburgh:

      "The wandering eye could o'er it go,
      And mark the distant city glow
        With gloomy splendor red;
      For on the smoke-wreaths, huge and slow,
      That round her sable turrets flow,
        The morning beams were shed,
      And tinged them with a lustre proud,
      Like that which streaks a thundercloud.
      Such dusky grandeur clothed the height,
      Where the huge castle holds its state,
        And all the steep slope down,
      Whose ridgy back heaves to the sky,
      Piled deep and massy, close and high,
        Mine own romantic town!
      But northward far with purer blaze,
      On Ochil mountains fell the rays,
      And as each heathy top they kissed,
      It gleamed a purple amethyst.
      Yonder the shores of Fife you saw;
      Here Preston Bay and Berwick Law:
        And, broad between them rolled,
      The gallant Frith the eye might note,
      Whose islands on its bosom float,
        Like emeralds chased in gold."

I do not like to spoil a fine passage by italicizing it; but
observe, the only hints at form, given throughout, are in the
somewhat vague words, "ridgy," "massy," "close," and "high;" the
whole being still more obscured by modern mystery, in its most
tangible form of smoke. But the _colors_ are all definite; note the
rainbow band of them--gloomy or dusky red, sable (pure black),
amethyst (pure purple), green, and gold--a noble chord throughout;
and then, moved doubtless less by the smoky than the amethystine
part of the group,

      "Fitz Eustace' heart felt closely pent,
      The spur he to his charger lent,
        And raised his bridle hand.
      And making demivolte in air,
      Cried, 'Where's the coward would not dare
        To fight for such a laud?'"

I need not multiply examples: the reader can easily trace for
himself, through verse familiar to us all, the force of these color
instincts. I will therefore add only two passages, not so completely
known by heart as most of the poems in which they occur.

      "'Twas silence all. He laid him down
      Where purple heath profusely strown,
      And throatwort, with its azure bell,
      And moss and thyme his cushion swell.
      There, spent with toil, he listless eyed
      The course of Greta's playful tide;
      Beneath her banks, now eddying dun,
      Now brightly gleaming to the sun,
      As, dancing over rock and stone,
      In yellow light her currents shone,
      Matching in hue the favorite gem
      Of Albin's mountain diadem.
      Then tired to watch the current play,
      He turned his weary eyes away
      To where the bank opposing showed
      Its huge square cliffs through shaggy wood.
      One, prominent above the rest,
      Reared to the sun its pale grey breast;
      Around its broken summit grew
      The hazel rude, and sable yew;
      A thousand varied lichens dyed
      Its waste and weather-beaten side;
      And round its rugged basis lay,
      By time or thunder rent away,
      Fragments, that, from its frontlet torn,
      Were mantled now by verdant thorn."

§ 43. Note, first, what an exquisite chord of color is given in the
succession of this passage. It begins with purple and blue; then
passes to gold, or cairngorm color (topaz color); then to _pale
grey_, through which the yellow passes into black; and the black,
through broken dyes of lichen, into green. Note, secondly,--what is
indeed so manifest throughout Scott's landscape as hardly to need
pointing out,--the love of rocks, and true understanding of their
colors and characters, opposed as it is in every conceivable way to
Dante's hatred and misunderstanding of them.

I have already traced, in various places, most of the causes of this
great difference: namely, first, the ruggedness of northern temper
(compare § 8. of the chapter on the Nature of Gothic in the Stones
of Venice); then the really greater beauty of the northern rocks, as
noted when we were speaking of the Apennine limestone; then the need
of finding beauty among them, if it were to be found anywhere,--no
well-arranged colors being any more to be seen in dress, but only in
rock lichens; and, finally, the love of irregularity, liberty, and
power, springing up in glorious opposition to laws of prosody,
fashion, and the five orders.

§ 44. The other passage I have to quote is still more interesting;
because it has _no form_ in it _at all_ except in one word
(chalice), but wholly composes its imagery either of color, or of
that delicate half-believed life which we have seen to be so
important an element in modern landscape.

      "The summer dawn's reflected hue
      _To purple changed Loch Katrine blue_;
      Mildly and soft the western breeze
      Just kissed the lake; just stirred the trees;
      _And the pleased lake, like maiden coy_,
      _Trembled, but dimpled not, for joy_;
      The mountain-shadows on her breast
      Were neither broken nor at rest;
      In bright uncertainty they lie,
      Like future joys to Fancy's eye.
      The water-lily to the light
      Her chalice reared of silver bright:
      The doe awoke, and to the lawn,
      Begemmed with dew-drops, led her fawn;
      The grey mist left the mountain side;
      The torrent showed its glistening pride;
      Invisible in flëcked sky,
      The lark sent down her revelry;
      The blackbird and the speckled thrush
      Good-morrow gave from brake and bush;
      In answer cooed the cushat dove
      Her notes of peace, and rest, and love."

Two more considerations are, however, suggested by the above
passage. The first, that the love of natural history, excited by the
continual attention now given to all wild landscape, heightens
reciprocally the interest of that landscape, and becomes an
important element in Scott's description, leading him to finish,
down to the minutest speckling of breast, and slightest shade of
attributed emotion, the portraiture of birds and animals; in strange
opposition to Homer's slightly named "sea-crows, who have care of
the works of the sea," and Dante's singing-birds, of undefined
species. Compare carefully a passage, too long to be quoted,--the
2nd and 3rd stanzas of canto VI. of Rokeby.

§ 45. The second, and the last point I have to note, is Scott's
habit of drawing a slight _moral_ from every scene, just enough to
excuse to his conscience his want of definite religious feeling; and
that this slight moral is almost always melancholy. Here he has
stopped short without entirely expressing it--

      "The mountain shadows ...
                              ... lie
      Like future joys to Fancy's eye."

His completed thought would be, that those future joys, like the
mountain shadows, were never to be attained. It occurs fully uttered
in many other places. He seems to have been constantly rebuking his
own worldly pride and vanity, but never purposefully:

      "The foam-globes on her eddies ride,
      Thick as the schemes of human pride
      That down life's current drive amain,
      As frail, as frothy, and as vain."

      "Foxglove, and nightshade, side by side,
      Emblems of punishment and pride."

      "Her dark eye flashed; she paused and sighed;--
      'Ah, what have I to do with pride!'"

And hear the thought he gathers from the sunset (noting first the
Turnerian color,--as usual, its principal element):

      "The sultry summer day is done.
      The western hills have hid the sun,
      But mountain peak and village spire
      Retain reflection of his fire.
      Old Barnard's towers are purple still,
      To those that gaze from Toller Hill;
      Distant and high the tower of Bowes
      Like steel upon the anvil glows;
      And Stanmore's ridge, behind that lay,
      Rich with the spoils of parting day,
      In crimson and in gold arrayed,
      Streaks yet awhile the closing shade;
      Then slow resigns to darkening heaven
      The tints which brighter hours had given
      Thus, aged men, full loth and slow,
      The vanities of life forego,
      And count their youthful follies o'er
      Till Memory lends her light no more."

That is, as far as I remember, one of the most finished pieces of
sunset he has given; and it has a woful moral; yet one which, with
Scott, is inseparable from the scene.

Hark, again:

      "'Twere sweet to mark the setting day
      On Bourhope's lonely top decay;
      And, as it faint and feeble died
      On the broad lake and mountain's side,
      To say, 'Thus pleasures fade away;
      Youth, talents, beauty, thus decay,
      And leave us dark, forlorn, and grey.'"

And again, hear Bertram:

      "Mine be the eve of tropic sun:
      With disk like battle target red,
      He rushes to his burning bed,
      Dyes the wide wave with bloody light,
      Then sinks at once; and all is night."

In all places of this kind, where a passing thought is suggested by
some external scene, that thought is at once a slight and sad one.
Scott's deeper moral sense is marked in the _conduct_ of his
stories, and in casual reflections or exclamations arising out of
their plot, and therefore sincerely uttered; as that of Marmion:

      "Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
      When first we practise to deceive!"

But the reflections which are founded, not on events, but on scenes,
are, for the most part, shallow, partly insincere, and, as far as
sincere, sorrowful. This habit of ineffective dreaming and moralizing
over passing scenes, of which the earliest type I know is given in
Jaques, is, as aforesaid, usually the satisfaction made to our modern
consciences for the want of a sincere acknowledgment of God in nature:
and Shakspere has marked it as the characteristic of a mind "compact
of jars" (Act II. Sc. VII., As You Like It). That description attaches
but too accurately to all the moods which we have traced in the
moderns generally, and in Scott as the first representative of them;
and the question now is, what this love of landscape, so composed, is
likely to lead us to, and what use can be made of it.

We began our investigation, it will be remembered, in order to
determine whether landscape-painting was worth studying or not. We
have now reviewed the three principal phases of temper in the
civilized human race, and we find that landscape has been mostly
disregarded by great men, or cast into a second place, until now;
and that now it seems dear to us, partly in consequence of our
faults, and partly owing to accidental circumstances, soon, in all
likelihood, to pass away: and there seems great room for question
still, whether our love of it is a permanent and healthy feeling, or
only a healthy crisis in a generally diseased state of mind. If the
former, society will for ever hereafter be affected by its results;
and Turner, the first great landscape painter, must take a place in
the history of nations corresponding in art accurately to that of
Bacon in philosophy;--Bacon having first opened the study of the
laws of material nature, when, formerly, men had thought only of the
laws of human mind; and Turner having first opened the study of the
aspect of material nature, when, before, men had thought only of the
aspect of the human form. Whether, therefore, the love of landscape
be trivial and transient, or important and permanent, it now becomes
necessary to consider. We have, I think, data enough before us for
the solution of the question, and we will enter upon it,
accordingly, in the following chapter.

  [84] Pre-Raphaelitism, of course, excepted, which is a new phase
       of art, in no wise considered in this chapter. Blake was
       sincere, but full of wild creeds, and somewhat diseased in

  [85] Of course this is only meant of the modern citizen or country
       gentleman, as compared with a citizen of Sparta or old
       Florence. I leave it to others to say whether the "neglect of
       the _art_ of war" may or may not, in a yet more fatal sense,
       be predicated of the English nation. War, _without_ art, we
       seem, with God's help, able still to wage nobly.

  [86] See David Copperfield, chap. lv. and lviii.

  [87] Observe, I do not speak thus of metaphysics because I have no
       pleasure in them. When I speak contemptuously of philology,
       it may be answered me, that I am a bad scholar; but I cannot
       be so answered touching metaphysics, for every one conversant
       with such subjects may see that I have strong inclination
       that way, which would, indeed, have led me far astray long
       ago, if I had not learned also some use of my hands, eyes,
       and feet.



§ 1. SUPPOSING then the preceding conclusions correct, respecting
the grounds and component _elements_ of the pleasure which the
moderns take in landscape, we have here to consider what are the
probable or usual _effects_ of this pleasure. Is it a safe or a
seductive one? May we wisely boast of it, and unhesitatingly indulge
it? or is it rather a sentiment to be despised when it is slight,
and condemned when it is intense; a feeling which disinclines us to
labor, and confuses us in thought; a joy only to the inactive and
the visionary, incompatible with the duties of life, and the
accuracies of reflection?

§ 2. It seems to me that, as matters stand at present, there is
considerable ground for the latter opinion. We saw, in the preceding
chapter, that our love of nature had been partly forced upon us by
mistakes in our social economy, and led to no distinct issues of
action or thought. And when we look to Scott--the man who feels it
most deeply--for some explanation of its effect upon him, we find a
curious tone of apology (as if for involuntary folly) running
through his confessions of such sentiment, and a still more curious
inability to define, beyond a certain point, the character of this
emotion. He has lost the company of his friends among the hills, and
turns to these last for comfort. He says, "there is a pleasure in
the pain" consisting in such thoughts

        "As oft awake
      By lone St. Mary's silent lake;"

but, when we look for some definition of these thoughts, all that we
are told is, that they compose

      "A mingled sentiment
      Of resignation and content!"[88]

a sentiment which, I suppose, many people can attain to on the loss
of their friends, without the help of lakes or mountains; while
Wordsworth definitely and positively affirms that _thought_ has
nothing whatever to do with the matter, and that though, in his
youth, the cataract and wood "haunted him like a passion," it was
without the help of any "remoter charm, by thought supplied."

§ 3. There is not, however, any question, but that both Scott and
Wordsworth are here mistaken in their analysis of their feelings.
Their delight, so far from being without thought, is more than half
made up of thought, but of thought in so curiously languid and
neutralized a condition that they cannot trace it. The thoughts are
beaten to a powder so small that they know not what they are; they
know only that in such a state they are not good for much, and
disdain to call them thoughts. But the way in which thought, even
thus broken, acts in producing the delight will be understood by
glancing back to §§ 9. and 10. of the tenth chapter, in which we
observed the power of the imagination in exalting any visible
object, by gathering round it, in farther vision, all the facts
properly connected with it; this being, as it were, a spiritual or
second sight, multiplying the power of enjoyment according to the
fulness of the vision. For, indeed, although in all lovely nature
there is, first, an excellent degree of simple beauty, addressed to
the eye alone, yet often what impresses us most will form but a very
small portion of that visible beauty. That beauty may, for instance,
be composed of lovely flowers and glittering streams, and blue sky,
and white clouds; and yet the thing that impresses us most, and
which we should be sorriest to lose, may be a thin grey film on the
extreme horizon, not so large, in the space of the scene it
occupies, as a piece of gossamer on a near at hand bush, nor in any
wise prettier to the eye than the gossamer; but, because the
gossamer is known by us for a little bit of spider's work, and the
other grey film is known to mean a mountain ten thousand feet high,
inhabited by a race of noble mountaineers, we are solemnly impressed
by the aspect of it; and yet, all the while the thoughts and
knowledge which cause us to receive this impression are so obscure
that we are not conscious of them; we think we are only enjoying the
visible scene; and the very men whose minds are fullest of such
thoughts absolutely deny, as we have just heard, that they owe their
pleasure to anything but the eye, or that the pleasure consists in
anything else than "Tranquillity."

§ 4. And observe, farther, that this comparative Dimness and
Untraceableness of the thoughts which are the sources of our
admiration, is not a _fault_ in the thoughts, at such a time. It is,
on the contrary, a necessary condition of their subordination to the
pleasure of Sight. If the thoughts were more distinct we should not
_see_ so well; and beginning definitely to think, we must
comparatively cease to see. In the instance just supposed, as long as
we look at the film of mountain or Alp, with only an obscure
consciousness of its being the source of mighty rivers, that
consciousness adds to our sense of its sublimity; and if we have ever
seen the Rhine or the Rhone near their mouths, our knowledge, so long
as it is only obscurely suggested, adds to our admiration of the Alp;
but once let the idea define itself,--once let us begin to consider
seriously _what_ rivers flow from that mountain, to trace their
course, and to recall determinately our memories of their distant
aspects,--and we cease to behold the Alp; or, if we still behold it,
it is only as a point in a map which we are painfully designing, or as
a subordinate object which we strive to thrust aside, in order to make
room for our remembrances of Avignon or Rotterdam.

Again: so long as our idea of the multitudes who inhabit the ravines
at its foot remains indistinct, that idea comes to the aid of all
the other associations which increase our delight. But let it once
arrest us, and entice us to follow out some clear course of thought
respecting the causes of the prosperity or misfortune of the Alpine
villagers, and the snowy peak again ceases to be visible, or holds
its place only as a white spot upon the retina, while we pursue our
meditations upon the religion or the political economy of the

§ 5. It is thus evident that a curiously balanced condition of the
powers of mind is necessary to induce full admiration of any natural
scene. Let those powers be themselves inert, and the mind vacant of
knowledge, and destitute of sensibility, and the external object
becomes little more to us than it is to birds or insects; we fall
into the temper of the clown. On the other hand, let the reasoning
powers be shrewd in excess, the knowledge vast, or sensibility
intense, and it will go hard but that the visible object will
suggest so much that it shall be soon itself forgotten, or become,
at the utmost, merely a kind of key-note to the course of purposeful
thought. Newton, probably, did not perceive whether the apple which
suggested his meditations on gravity was withered or rosy; nor could
Howard be affected by the picturesqueness of the architecture which
held the sufferers it was his occupation to relieve.

§ 6. This wandering away in thought from the thing seen to the
business of life, is not, however, peculiar to men of the highest
reasoning powers, or most active benevolence. It takes place more or
less in nearly all persons of average mental endowment. They see and
love what is beautiful, but forget their admiration of it in
following some train of thought which it suggested, and which is of
more personal interest to them. Suppose that three or four persons
come in sight of a group of pine-trees, not having seen pines for
some time. One, perhaps an engineer, is struck by the manner in
which their roots hold the ground, and sets himself to examine their
fibres, in a few minutes retaining little more consciousness of the
beauty of the trees than if he were a rope-maker untwisting the
strands of a cable: to another, the sight of the trees calls up some
happy association, and presently he forgets them, and pursues the
memories they summoned: a third is struck by certain groupings of
their colors, useful to him as an artist, which he proceeds
immediately to note mechanically for future use, with as little
feeling as a cook setting down the constituents of a newly
discovered dish; and a fourth, impressed by the wild coiling of
boughs and roots, will begin to change them in his fancy into
dragons and monsters, and lose his grasp of the scene in fantastic
metamorphosis: while, in the mind of the man who has most the power
of contemplating the thing itself, all these perceptions and trains
of idea are partially present, not distinctly, but in a mingled and
perfect harmony. He will not see the colors of the tree so well as
the artist, nor its fibres so well as the engineer; he will not
altogether share the emotion of the sentimentalist, nor the trance
of the idealist; but fancy, and feeling, and perception, and
imagination, will all obscurely meet and balance themselves in him,
and he will see the pine-trees somewhat in this manner:

          "Worthier still of note
      Are those fraternal Four of Borrowdale,
      Joined in one solemn and capacious grove;
      Huge trunks! and each particular trunk a growth
      Of intertwisted fibres serpentine
      Up-coiling, and inveterately convolved;
      Nor uniformed with Phantasy, and looks
      That threaten the profane; a pillared shade,
      Upon whose grassless floor of red-brown hue,
      By sheddings from the pining umbrage tinged
      Perennially,--beneath whose sable roof
      Of boughs, as if for festal purpose, decked
      With unrejoicing berries, ghostly Shapes
      May meet at noontide; Fear and trembling Hope,
      Silence and Foresight; Death the Skeleton,
      And Time the Shadow; there to celebrate,
      As in a natural temple scattered o'er
      With altars undisturbed of mossy stone,
      United worship."

§ 7. The power, therefore, of thus fully _perceiving_ any natural
object depends on our being able to group and fasten all our fancies
about it as a centre, making a garland of thoughts for it, in which
each separate thought is subdued and shortened of its own strength,
in order to fit it for harmony with others; the intensity of our
enjoyment of the object depending, first, on its own beauty, and
then on the richness of the garland. And men who have this habit of
clustering and harmonizing their thoughts are a little too apt to
look scornfully upon the harder workers who tear the bouquet to
pieces to examine the stems. This was the chief narrowness of
Wordsworth's mind; he could not understand that to break a rock with
a hammer in search of crystal may sometimes be an act not
disgraceful to human nature, and that to dissect a flower may
sometimes be as proper as to dream over it; whereas all experience
goes to teach us, that among men of average intellect the most
useful members of society are the dissectors, not the dreamers. It
is not that they love nature or beauty less, but that they love
result, effect, and progress more; and when we glance broadly along
the starry crowd of benefactors to the human race, and guides of
human thought, we shall find that this dreaming love of natural
beauty--or at least its expression--has been more or less checked by
them all, and subordinated either to hard work or watching of
_human_ nature. Thus in all the classical and mediæval periods, it
was, as we have seen, subordinate to agriculture, war, and religion;
and in the modern period, in which it has become far more powerful,
observe in what persons it is chiefly manifested.

  (1.) It is subordinate in        (2.) It is intense in
          Bacon.                       Mrs. Radclyffe.
          Milton.                      St. Pierre.
          Johnson.                     Shenstone.
          Richardson.                  Byron.
          Goldsmith.                   Shelley.
          Young.                       Keats.
          Newton.                      Burns.
          Howard.                      Eugene Sue.
          Fenelon.                     George Sand.
          Pascal.                      Dumas.

§ 8. I have purposely omitted the names of Wordsworth, Tennyson, and
Scott, in the second list, because, glancing at the two columns as
they now stand, we may, I think, draw some useful conclusions from
the high honorableness and dignity of the names on one side, and the
comparative slightness of those on the other,--conclusions which may
help us to a better understanding of Scott and Tennyson themselves.
Glancing, I say, down those columns in their present form, we shall
at once perceive that the intense love of nature is, in modern
times, characteristic of persons not of the first order of
intellect, but of brilliant imagination, quick sympathy, and
undefined religious principle, suffering also usually under strong
and ill-governed passions: while in the same individual it will be
found to vary at different periods, being, for the most part,
strongest in youth, and associated with force of emotion, and with
indefinite and feeble powers of thought; also, throughout life,
perhaps developing itself most at times when the mind is slightly
unhinged by love, grief, or some other of the passions.

§ 9. But, on the other hand, while these feelings of delight in
natural objects cannot be construed into signs of the highest
mental powers, or purest moral principles, we see that they are
assuredly indicative of minds above the usual standard of power, and
endowed with sensibilities of great preciousness to humanity; so
that those who find themselves entirely destitute of them, must make
this want a subject of humiliation, not of pride. The apathy which
cannot perceive beauty is very different from the stern energy which
disdains it; and the coldness of heart which receives no emotion
from external nature, is not to be confounded with the wisdom of
purpose which represses emotion in action. In the case of most men,
it is neither acuteness of the reason, nor breadth of humanity,
which shields them from the impressions of natural scenery, but
rather low anxieties, vain discontents, and mean pleasures; and for
one who is blinded to the works of God by profound abstraction or
lofty purpose, tens of thousands have their eyes sealed by vulgar
selfishness, and their intelligence crushed by impious care.

Observe, then: we have, among mankind in general, the three orders
of being;--the lowest, sordid and selfish, which neither sees nor
feels; the second, noble and sympathetic, but which sees and feels
without concluding or acting; the third and highest, which loses
sight in resolution, and feeling in work.[89]

Thus, even in Scott and Wordsworth themselves, the love of nature
is more or less associated with their weaknesses. Scott shows it
most in the cruder compositions of his youth, his perfect powers of
mind being displayed only in dialogues with which description has
nothing whatever to do. Wordsworth's distinctive work was a war with
pomp and pretence, and a display of the majesty of simple feelings
and humble hearts, together with high reflective truth in his
analysis of the courses of politics and ways of men; without these,
his love of nature would have been comparatively worthless.

§ 10. "If this be so, it is not well to encourage the observance of
landscape, any more than other ways of dreamily and ineffectually
spending time?"

Stay a moment. We have hitherto observed this love of natural beauty
only as it distinguishes one man from another, not as it acts for
good or evil on those minds to which it necessarily belongs. It may,
on the whole, distinguish weaker men from stronger men, and yet in
those weaker men may be of some notable use. It may distinguish
Byron from St. Bernard, and Shelley from Sir Isaac Newton, and yet
may, perhaps, be the best thing that Byron and Shelley possess--a
saving element in them; just as a rush may be distinguished from an
oak by its bending, and yet the bending may be the saving element
in the rush, and an admirable gift in its place and way. So that,
although St. Bernard journeys all day by the Lake of Geneva, and
asks at evening "where it is," and Byron learns by it "to love earth
only for its earthly sake,"[90] it does not follow that Byron,
hating men, was the worse for loving the earth, nor that St.
Bernard, loving men, was the better or wiser for being blind to it.
And this will become still more manifest if we examine somewhat
farther into the nature of this instinct, as characteristic
especially of youth.

§ 11. We saw above that Wordsworth described the feeling as
independent of thought, and, in the particular place then quoted, he
_therefore_ speaks of it depreciatingly. But in other places he does
not speak of it depreciatingly, but seems to think the absence of
thought involves a certain nobleness:

          "In such high hour
      Of visitation from the living God
      _Thought_ was not."

And he refers to the intense delight which he himself felt, and
which he supposes other men feel, in nature, during their
thoughtless youth, as an intimation of their immortality, and a joy
which indicates their having come fresh from the hand of God.

Now, if Wordsworth be right in supposing this feeling to be in some
degree common to all men, and most vivid in youth, we may question if
it can be _entirely_ explained as I have now tried to explain it. For
if it entirely depended on multitudes of ideas, clustering about a
beautiful object, it might seem that the youth could not feel it so
strongly as the man, because the man knows more, and must have more
ideas to make the garland of. Still less can we suppose the pleasure
to be of that melancholy and languid kind, which Scott defines as
"Resignation" and "Content;" boys being not distinguished for either
of those characters, but for eager effort and delightsome discontent.
If Wordsworth is at all right in this matter, therefore, there must
surely be some other element in the feeling not yet detected.

§ 12. Now, in a question of this subtle kind, relating to a period
of life when self-examination is rare, and expression imperfect, it
becomes exceedingly difficult to trace, with any certainty, the
movements of the minds of others, nor always easy to remember those
of our own. I cannot, from observation, form any decided opinion as
to the extent in which this strange delight in nature influences the
hearts of young persons in general; and, in stating what has passed
in my own mind, I do not mean to draw any positive conclusion as to
the nature of the feeling in other children; but the inquiry is
clearly one in which personal experience is the only safe ground to
go upon, though a narrow one; and I will make no excuse for talking
about myself with reference to this subject, because, though there
is much egotism in the world, it is often the last thing a man
thinks of doing,--and, though there is much work to be done in the
world, it is often the best thing a man can do,--to tell the exact
truth about the movements of his own mind; and there is this farther
reason, that, whatever other faculties I may or may not possess,
this gift of taking pleasure in landscape I assuredly possess in a
greater degree than most men; it having been the ruling passion of
my life, and the reason for the choice of its field of labor.

§ 13. The first thing which I remember as an event in life, was being
taken by my nurse to the brow of Friar's Crag on Derwentwater; the
intense joy, mingled with awe, that I had in looking through the
hollows in the mossy roots, over the crag, into the dark lake, has
associated itself more or less with all twining roots of trees ever
since. Two other things I remember, as, in a sort, beginnings of
life;--crossing Shapfells (being let out of the chaise to run up the
hills), and going through Glenfarg, near Kinross, in a winter's
morning, when the rocks where hung with icicles; these being
culminating points in an early life of more travelling than is usually
indulged to a child. In such journeyings, whenever they brought me
near hills, and in all mountain ground and scenery, I had a pleasure,
as early as I can remember, and continuing till I was eighteen or
twenty, infinitely greater than any which has been since possible to
me in anything; comparable for intensity only to the joy of a lover in
being near a noble and kind mistress, but no more explicable or
definable than that feeling of love itself. Only thus much I can
remember, respecting it, which is important to our present subject.

§ 14. First: it was never independent of associated thought. Almost
as soon as I could see or hear, I had got reading enough to give me
associations with all kinds of scenery; and mountains, in
particular, were always partly confused with those of my favorite
book, Scott's Monastery; so that Glenfarg and all other glens were
more or less enchanted to me, filled with forms of hesitating creed
about Christie of the Clint Hill, and the monk Eustace; and with a
general presence of White Lady everywhere. I also generally knew, or
was told by my father and mother, such simple facts of history as
were necessary to give more definite and justifiable association to
other scenes which chiefly interested me, such as the ruins of
Lochleven and Kenilworth; and thus my pleasure in mountains or ruins
was never, even in earliest childhood, free from a certain awe and
melancholy, and general sense of the meaning of death, though in its
principal influence, entirely exhilarating and gladdening.

§ 15. Secondly: it was partly dependent on contrast with a very
simple and unamused mode of general life; I was born in London, and
accustomed, for two or three years, to no other prospect than that
of the brick walls over the way; had no brothers, nor sisters, nor
companions; and though I could always make myself happy in a quiet
way, the beauty of the mountains had an additional charm of change
and adventure which a country-bred child would not have felt.

§ 16. Thirdly: there was no definite religious feeling mingled with
it. I partly believed in ghosts and fairies; but supposed that
angels belonged entirely to the Mosaic dispensation, and cannot
remember any single thought or feeling connected with them. I
believed that God was in heaven, and could hear me and see me; but
this gave me neither pleasure nor pain, and I seldom thought of it
at all. I never thought of nature as God's work, but as a separate
fact or existence.

§ 17. Fourthly: it was entirely unaccompanied by powers of
reflection or invention. Every fancy that I had about nature was put
into my head by some book; and I never reflected about anything till
I grew older; and then, the more I reflected, the less nature was
precious to me: I could then make myself happy, by thinking, in the
dark, or in the dullest scenery; and the beautiful scenery became
less essential to my pleasure.

§ 18. Fifthly: it was, according to its strength, inconsistent with
every evil feeling, with spite, anger, covetousness, discontent, and
every other hateful passion; but would associate itself deeply with
every just and noble sorrow, joy, or affection. It had not, however,
always the power to repress what was inconsistent with it; and,
though only after stout contention, might at last be crushed by what
it had partly repressed. And as it only acted by setting one impulse
against another, though it had much power in moulding the character,
it had hardly any in strengthening it; it formed temperament, but
never instilled principle; it kept me generally good-humored and
kindly, but could not teach me perseverance or self-denial: what
firmness or principle I had was quite independent of it; and it came
itself nearly as often in the form of a temptation as of a
safeguard, leading me to ramble over hills when I should have been
learning lessons, and lose days in reveries which I might have spent
in doing kindnesses.

§ 19. Lastly: although there was no definite religious sentiment
mingled with it, there was a continual perception of Sanctity in the
whole of nature, from the slightest thing to the vastest:--an
instinctive awe, mixed with delight; an indefinable thrill, such as
we sometimes imagine to indicate the presence of a disembodied
spirit. I could only feel this perfectly when I was alone; and then
it would often make me shiver from head to foot with the joy and
fear of it, when after being some time away from the hills, I first
got to the shore of a mountain river, where the brown water circled
among the pebbles, or when I saw the first swell of distant land
against the sunset, or the first low broken wall, covered with
mountain moss. I cannot in the least _describe_ the feeling; but I
do not think this is my fault, nor that of the English language,
for, I am afraid, no feeling _is_ describable. If we had to explain
even the sense of bodily hunger to a person who had never felt it,
we should be hard put to it for words; and this joy in nature seemed
to me to come of a sort of heart-hunger, satisfied with the presence
of a Great and Holy Spirit. These feelings remained in their full
intensity till I was eighteen or twenty, and then, as the reflective
and practical power increased, and the "cares of this world" gained
upon me, faded gradually away, in the manner described by Wordsworth
in his Intimations of Immortality.

§ 20. I cannot, of course, tell how far I am justified in supposing
that these sensations may be reasoned upon as common to children in
general. In the same degree they are not of course common, otherwise
children would be, most of them, very different from what they are
in their choice of pleasures. But, as far as such feelings exist, I
apprehend they are more or less similar in their nature and
influence; only producing different characters according to the
elements with which they are mingled. Thus, a very religious child
may give up many pleasures to which its instincts lead it, for the
sake of irksome duties; and an inventive child would mingle its love
of nature with watchfulness of human sayings and doings: but I
believe the feelings I have endeavored to describe are the pure
landscape-instinct; and the likelihoods of good or evil resulting
from them may be reasoned upon as generally indicating the
usefulness or danger of the modern love and study of landscape.

§ 21. And, first, observe that the charm of romantic association (§
14.) can be felt only by the modern European child. It rises
eminently out of the contrast of the beautiful past with the
frightful and monotonous present; and it depends for its force on
the existence of ruins and traditions, on the remains of
architecture, the traces of battlefields, and the precursorship of
eventful history. The instinct to which it appeals can hardly be
felt in America, and every day that either beautifies our present
architecture and dress, or overthrows a stone of mediæval monument,
contributes to weaken it in Europe. Of its influence on the mind of
Turner and Prout, and the permanent results which, through them, it
is likely to effect, I shall have to speak presently.

§ 22. Again: the influence of surprise in producing the delight, is
to be noted as a suspicious or evanescent element in it. Observe, my
pleasure was chiefly (§ 19.) when I _first_ got into beautiful
scenery, out of London. The enormous influence of novelty--the way
in which it quickens observation, sharpens sensation, and exalts
sentiment--is not half enough taken note of by us, and is to me a
very sorrowful matter. I think that what Wordsworth speaks of as a
glory in the child, because it has come fresh from God's hands, is
in reality nothing more than the freshness of all things to its
newly opened sight. I find that by keeping long away from hills, I
can in great part still restore the old childish feeling about them;
and the more I live and work among them, the more it vanishes.

§ 23. This evil is evidently common to all minds; Wordsworth himself
mourning over it in the same poem:

      "Custom hangs upon us, with a weight
      Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life."

And if we grow impatient under it, and seek to recover the mental
energy by more quickly repeated and brighter novelty, it is all over
with our enjoyment. There is no cure for this evil, any more than for
the weariness of the imagination already described, but in patience
and rest: if we try to obtain perpetual change, change itself will
become monotonous; and then we are reduced to that old despair, "If
water chokes, what will you drink after it?" And the two points of
practical wisdom in this matter are, first, to be content with as
little novelty as possible at a time; and, secondly, to preserve, as
much as possible in the world, the sources of novelty.

§ 24. I say, first, to be content with as little change as possible.
If the attention is awake, and the feelings in proper train, a turn
of a country road, with a cottage beside it, which we have not seen
before, is as much as we need for refreshment; if we hurry past it,
and take two cottages at a time, it is already too much: hence, to
any person who has all his senses about him, a quiet walk along not
more than ten or twelve miles of road a day, is the most amusing of
all travelling; and all travelling becomes dull in exact proportion
to its rapidity. Going by railroad I do not consider as travelling
at all; it is merely "being sent" to a place, and very little
different from becoming a parcel; the next step to it would of
course be telegraphic transport, of which, however, I suppose it has
been truly said by Octave Feuillet,

    "_Il y aurait des gens assez bêtes_ pour trouver ça amusant."[91]

If we walk more than ten or twelve miles, it breaks up the day too
much; leaving no time for stopping at the stream sides or shady
banks, or for any work at the end of the day; besides that the last
few miles are apt to be done in a hurry, and may then be considered
as lost ground. But if, advancing thus slowly, after some days we
approach any more interesting scenery, every yard of the changeful
ground becomes precious and piquant; and the continual increase of
hope, and of surrounding beauty, affords one of the most exquisite
enjoyments possible to the healthy mind; besides that real knowledge
is acquired of whatever it is the object of travelling to learn, and
a certain sublimity given to all places, so attained, by the true
sense of the spaces of earth that separate them. A man who really
loves travelling would as soon consent to pack a day of such
happiness into an hour of railroad, as one who loved eating would
agree, if it were possible, to concentrate his dinner into a pill.

§ 25. And, secondly, I say that it is wisdom to preserve as much as
possible the innocent _sources_ of novelty;--not definite
inferiorities of one place to another, if such can be done away; but
differences of manners and customs, of language and architecture. The
greatest effort ought especially to be made by all wise and
far-sighted persons, in the present crisis of civilization, to enforce
the distinction between wholesome reform, and heartless abandonment of
ancestral custom; between kindly fellowship of nation with nation, and
ape-like adoption, by one, of the habits of another. It is ludicrously
awful to see the luxurious inhabitants of London and Paris rushing
over the Continent (as they say, to _see_ it), and transposing every
place, as far as lies in their power, instantly into a likeness of
Regent Street and the Rue de la Paix, which they need not certainly
have come so far to see. Of this evil I shall have more to say
hereafter; meantime I return to our main subject.

§ 26. The next character we have to note in the landscape-instinct
(and on this much stress is to be laid), is its total inconsistency
with all evil passion; its absolute contrariety (whether in the
contest it were crushed or not) to all care, hatred, envy, anxiety,
and moroseness. A feeling of this kind is assuredly not one to be
lightly repressed, or treated with contempt.

But how, if it be so, the reader asks, can it be characteristic of
passionate and unprincipled men, like Byron, Shelley, and such
others, and not characteristic of the noblest and most highly
principled men?

First, because it is itself a passion, and therefore likely to be
characteristic of passionate men. Secondly, because it is (§ 18)
wholly a separate thing from moral principle, and may or may not be
joined to strength of will, or rectitude of purpose[92]; only, this
much is always observable in the men whom it characterizes, that,
whatever their faults or failings, they always understand and love
noble qualities of character; they can conceive (if not certain
phases of piety), at all events, self-devotion of the highest kind;
they delight in all that is good, gracious, and noble; and though
warped often to take delight also in what is dark or degraded, that
delight is mixed with bitter self-reproach; or else is wanton,
careless, or affected, while their delight in noble things is
constant and sincere.

§ 27. Look back to the two lists given above, § 7. I have not lately
read anything by Mrs. Radclyffe or George Sand, and cannot,
therefore, take instances from them; Keats hardly introduced human
character into his work; but glance over the others, and note the
general tone of their conceptions. Take St. Pierre's Virginia,
Byron's Myrrha, Angiolina, and Marina, and Eugene Sue's Fleur de
Marie; and out of the other lists you will only be able to find
Pamela, Clementina, and, I suppose, Clarissa,[93] to put beside
them; and these will not more than match Myrrha and Marina; leaving
Fleur de Marie and Virginia rivalless. Then meditate a little, with
all justice and mercy, over the two groups of names; and I think you
will, at last, feel that there is a pathos and tenderness of heart
among the lovers of nature in the second list, of which it is nearly
impossible to estimate either the value or the danger; that the
sterner consistency of the men in the first may, in great part, have
arisen only from the, to them, most merciful, appointment of having
had religious teaching or disciplined education in their youth;
while their want of love for nature, whether that love be originally
absent, or artificially repressed, is to none of them an advantage.
Johnson's indolence, Goldsmith's improvidence, Young's worldliness,
Milton's severity, and Bacon's servility, might all have been less,
if they could in any wise have sympathized with Byron's lonely joy
in a Jura storm,[94] or with Shelley's interest in floating paper
boats down the Serchio.

§ 28. And then observe, farther, as I kept the names of Wordsworth
and Scott out of the second list, I withdrew, also, certain names
from the first; and for this reason, that in all the men who are
named in that list, there is evidently _some_ degree of love for
nature, which may have been originally of more power than we
suppose, and may have had an infinitely hallowing and protective
influence upon them. But there also lived certain men of high
intellect in that age who had _no_ love of nature whatever. They do
not appear ever to have received the smallest sensation of ocular
delight from any natural scene, but would have lived happily all
their lives in drawingrooms or studies. And, therefore, in these men
we shall be able to determine, with the greatest chance of accuracy,
what the real influence of natural beauty is, and what the character
of a mind destitute of its love. Take, as conspicuous instances, Le
Sage and Smollett, and you will find, in meditating over their
works, that they are utterly incapable of conceiving a human soul as
endowed with any nobleness whatever; their heroes are simply beasts
endowed with some degree of human intellect;--cunning, false,
passionate, reckless, ungrateful, and abominable, incapable of noble
joy, of noble sorrow, of any spiritual perception or hope. I said,
"beasts with human intellect;" but neither Gil Blas nor Roderick
Random reach, morally, anything near the level of dogs; while the
delight which the writers themselves feel in mere filth and pain,
with an unmitigated foulness and cruelty of heart, is just as
manifest in every sentence as the distress and indignation which
with pain and injustice are seen by Shelley and Byron.

§ 29. Distinguished from these men by _some_ evidence of love for
nature, yet an evidence much less clear than that for any of those
named even in the first list, stand Cervantes, Pope, and Molière. It
is not easy to say how much the character of these last depended on
their epoch and education; but it is noticeable that the first two
agree thus far in temper with Le Sage and Smollett,--that they delight
in dwelling upon vice, misfortune, or folly, as subjects of amusement;
while yet they are distinguished from Le Sage and Smollett by capacity
of conceiving nobleness of character, only in a humiliating and
hopeless way; the one representing all chivalry as insanity, the other
placing the wisdom of man in a serene and sneering reconciliation of
good with evil. Of Molière I think very differently. Living in the
blindest period of the world's history, in the most luxurious city,
and the most corrupted court, of the time, he yet manifests through
all his writings an exquisite natural wisdom; a capacity for the most
simple enjoyment; a high sense of all nobleness, honor, and purity,
variously marked throughout his slighter work, but distinctly made the
theme of his two perfect plays--the Tartuffe and Misanthrope; and in
all that he says of art or science he has an unerring instinct for
what is useful and sincere, and uses his whole power to defend it,
with as keen a hatred of everything affected and vain. And, singular
as it may seem, the first definite lesson read to Europe, in that
school of simplicity of which Wordsworth was the supposed originator
among the mountains of Cumberland, was, in fact, given in the midst of
the court of Louis XIV., and by Molière. The little canzonet "J'aime
mieux ma mie," is, I believe, the first Wordsworthian poem brought
forward on philosophical principles to oppose the schools of art and

§ 30. I do not know if, by a careful analysis, I could point out any
evidences of a capacity for the love of natural scenery in Molière
stealing forth through the slightness of his pastorals; but, if not,
we must simply set him aside as exceptional, as a man uniting
Wordsworth's philosophy with Le Sage's wit, turned by circumstances
from the observance of natural beauty to that of human frailty. And
thus putting him aside for the moment, I think we cannot doubt of
our main conclusion, that, though the absence of the love of nature
is not an assured condemnation, its presence is an invariable sign
of goodness of heart and justness of moral _perception_, though by
no means of moral _practice_; that in proportion to the degree in
which it is felt, will _probably_ be the degree in which all
nobleness and beauty of character will also be felt; that when it is
originally absent from any mind, that mind is in many other respects
hard, worldly, and degraded; that where, having been originally
present, it is repressed by art or education, that repression
appears to have been detrimental to the person suffering it; and
that wherever the feeling exists, it acts for good on the character
to which it belongs, though, as it may often belong to characters
weak in other respects, it may carelessly be mistaken for a source
of evil in them.

§ 31. And having arrived at this conclusion by a review of facts,
which I hope it will be admitted, whether accurate or not, has at
least been candid, these farther considerations may confirm our
belief in its truth. Observe: the whole force of education, until
very lately, has been directed in every possible way to the
destruction of the love of nature. The only knowledge which has been
considered essential among us is that of words, and, next after it,
of the abstract sciences; while every liking shown by children for
simple natural history has been either violently checked, (if it
took an inconvenient form for the housemaids,) or else scrupulously
limited to hours of play: so that it has really been impossible for
any child earnestly to study the works of God but against its
conscience; and the love of nature has become inherently the
characteristic of truants and idlers. While also the art of drawing,
which is of more real importance to the human race than that of
writing (because people can hardly draw anything without being of
some use both to themselves and others, and can hardly write
anything without wasting their own time and that of others),--this
art of drawing, I say, which on plain and stern system should be
taught to every child, just as writing is,--has been so neglected
and abused, that there is not one man in a thousand, even of its
professed teachers, who knows its first principles: and thus it
needs much ill-fortune or obstinacy--much neglect on the part of his
teachers, or rebellion on his own--before a boy can get leave to use
his eyes or his fingers; so that those who _can_ use them are for
the most part neglected or rebellious lads--runaways and bad
scholars--passionate, erratic, self-willed, and restive against all
forms of education; while your well-behaved and amiable scholars are
disciplined into blindness and palsy of half their faculties.
Wherein there is at once a notable ground for what difference we
have observed between the lovers of nature and its despisers;
between the somewhat immoral and unrespectable watchfulness of the
one, and the moral and respectable blindness of the other.

§ 32. One more argument remains, and that, I believe, an unanswerable
one. As, by the accident of education, the love of nature has been,
among us, associated with _wilfulness_, so, by the accident of time,
it has been associated with _faithlessness_. I traced, above, the
peculiar mode in which this faithlessness was indicated; but I never
intended to imply, therefore, that it was an invariable concomitant of
the love. Because it happens that, by various concurrent operations of
evil, we have been led, according to those words of the Greek poet
already quoted, "to dethrone the gods, and crown the whirlwind," it is
no reason that we should forget there was once a time when "the Lord
answered Job _out of_ the whirlwind." And if we now take final and
full view of the matter, we shall find that the love of nature,
wherever it has existed, has been a faithful and sacred element of
human feeling; that is to say, supposing all circumstances otherwise
the same with respect to two individuals, the one who loves nature
most will be _always_ found to have more _faith in God_ than the
other. It is intensely difficult, owing to the confusing and counter
influences which always mingle in the data of the problem, to make
this abstraction fairly; but so far as we can do it, so far, I boldly
assert, the result is constantly the same: the nature-worship will be
found to bring with it such a sense of the presence and power of a
Great Spirit as no mere reasoning can either induce or controvert; and
where that nature-worship is innocently pursued,--i.e. with due
respect to other claims on time, feeling, and exertion, and associated
with the higher principles of religion,--it becomes the channel of
certain sacred truths, which by no other means can be conveyed.

§ 33. This is not a statement which any investigation is needed to
prove. It comes to us at once from the highest of all authority. The
greater number of the words which are recorded in Scripture, as
directly spoken to men by the lips of the Deity, are either simple
revelations of His law, or special threatenings, commands, and
promises relating to special events. But two passages of God's
speaking, one in the Old and one in the New Testament, possess, it
seems to me, a different character from any of the rest, having been
uttered, the one to effect the last necessary change in the mind of
a man whose piety was in other respects perfect; and the other, as
the first statement to all men of the principles of Christianity by
Christ Himself--I mean the 38th to 41st chapters of the book of Job,
and the Sermon on the Mount. Now the first of these passages is,
from beginning to end, nothing else than a direction of the mind
which was to be perfected to humble observance of the works of God
in nature. And the other consists only in the inculcation of _three_
things: 1st, right conduct; 2nd, looking for eternal life; 3rd,
trusting God, through watchfulness of His dealings with His
creation: and the entire contents of the book of Job, and of the
Sermon on the Mount, will be found resolvable simply into these
three requirements from all men,--that they should act rightly, hope
for heaven, and watch God's wonders and work in the earth; the right
conduct being always summed up under the three heads of _justice_,
_mercy_, and _truth_, and no mention of any doctrinal point whatsoever
occurring in either piece of divine teaching.

§ 34. As far as I can judge of the ways of men, it seems to me that
the simplest and most necessary truths are always the last
believed; and I suppose that well-meaning people in general would
rather regulate their conduct and creed by almost any other portion
of Scripture whatsoever, than by that Sermon on the Mount, which
contains the things that Christ thought it first necessary for all
men to understand. Nevertheless, I believe the time will soon come
for the full force of these two passages of Scripture to be
accepted. Instead of supposing the love of nature necessarily
connected with the faithlessness of the age, I believe it is
connected properly with the benevolence and liberty of the age; that
it is precisely the most healthy element which distinctively belongs
to us; and that out of it, cultivated no longer in levity or
ignorance, but in earnestness and as a duty, results will spring of
an importance at present inconceivable; and lights arise, which, for
the first time in man's history, will reveal to him the true nature
of his life, the true field for his energies, and the true relations
between him and his Maker.

§ 35. I will not endeavor here to trace the various modes in which
these results are likely to be effected, for this would involve an
essay on education, on the uses of natural history, and the probable
future destiny of nations. Somewhat on these subjects I have spoken
in other places; and I hope to find time, and proper place, to say
more. But one or two observations maybe made merely to suggest the
directions in which the reader may follow out the subject for

The great mechanical impulses of the age, of which most of us are so
proud, are a mere passing fever, half-speculative, half-childish.
People will discover at last that royal roads to anything can no
more be laid in iron than they can in dust; that there are, in fact,
no royal roads to anywhere worth going to; that if there were, it
would that instant cease to be worth going to,--I mean so far as the
things to be obtained are in any way estimable in terms of _price_.
For there are two classes of precious things in the world: those
that God gives us for nothing--sun, air, and life (both mortal life
and immortal); and the secondarily precious things which he gives us
for a price: these secondarily precious things, worldly wine and
milk, can only be bought for definite money; they never can be
cheapened. No cheating nor bargaining will ever get a single thing
out of nature's "establishment" at half-price. Do we want to be
strong?--we must work. To be hungry?--we must starve. To be
happy?--we must be kind. To be wise?--we must look and think. No
changing of place at a hundred miles an hour, nor making of stuffs a
thousand yards a minute, will make us one whit stronger, happier, or
wiser. There was always more in the world than men could see, walked
they ever so slowly; they will see it no better for going fast. And
they will at last, and soon too, find out that their grand
inventions for conquering (as they think) space and time, do, in
reality, conquer nothing; for space and time are, in their own
essence, unconquerable, and besides did not want any sort of
conquering; they wanted _using_. A fool always wants to shorten
space and time: a wise man wants to lengthen both. A fool wants to
kill space and kill time: a wise man, first to gain them, then to
animate them. Your railroad, when you come to understand it, is only
a device for making the world smaller: and as for being able to talk
from place to place, that is, indeed, well and convenient; but
suppose you have, originally, nothing to say.[95] We shall be
obliged at last to confess, what we should long ago have known, that
the really precious things are thought and sight, not pace. It does
a bullet no good to go fast; and a man, if he be truly a man, no
harm to go slow; for his glory is not at all in going, but in being.

§ 36. "Well; but railroads and telegraphs are so useful for
communicating knowledge to savage nations." Yes, if you have any to
give them. If you know nothing _but_ railroads, and can communicate
nothing but aqueous vapor and gunpowder,--what then? But if you have
any other thing than those to give, then the railroad is of use only
because it communicates that other thing and the question is--what
that other thing may be. Is it religion? I believe if we had really
wanted to communicate that, we could have done it in less than 1800
years, without steam. Most of the good religious communication that
I remember has been done on foot; and it cannot be easily done
faster than at foot pace. Is it science? But what science--of
motion, meat, and medicine? Well; when you have moved your savage,
and dressed your savage, fed him with white bread, and shown him how
to set a limb,--what next? Follow out that question. Suppose every
obstacle overcome; give your savage every advantage of civilization
to the full: suppose that you have put the Red Indian in tight
shoes; taught the Chinese how to make Wedgwood's ware, and to paint
it with colors that will rub off; and persuaded all Hindoo women
that it is more pious to torment their husbands into graves than to
burn themselves at the burial,--what next? Gradually, thinking on
from point to point, we shall come to perceive that all true
happiness and nobleness are near us, and yet neglected by us; and
that till we have learned how to be happy and noble, we have not
much to tell, even to Red Indians. The delights of horse-racing and
hunting, of assemblies in the night instead of the day, of costly
and wearisome music, of costly and burdensome dress, of chagrined
contention for place or power, or wealth, or the eyes of the
multitude; and all the endless occupation without purpose, and
idleness without rest, of our vulgar world, are not, it seems to me,
enjoyments we need be ambitious to communicate. And all real and
wholesome enjoyments possible to man have been just as possible to
him, since first he was made of the earth, as they are now; and they
are possible to him chiefly in peace. To watch the corn grow, and
the blossoms set; to draw hard breath over ploughshare or spade; to
read, to think, to love, to hope, to pray,--these are the things
that make men happy; they have always had the power of doing these,
they never _will_ have power to do more. The world's prosperity or
adversity depends upon our knowing and teaching these few things:
but upon iron, or glass, or electricity, or steam, in no wise.

§ 37. And I am Utopian and enthusiastic enough to believe, that the
time will come when the world will discover this. It has now made
its experiments in every possible direction but the right one; and
it seems that it must, at last, try the right one, in a mathematical
necessity. It has tried fighting, and preaching, and fasting, buying
and selling, pomp and parsimony, pride and humiliation,--every
possible manner of existence in which it could conjecture there was
any happiness or dignity; and all the while, as it bought, sold,
and fought, and fasted, and wearied itself with policies, and
ambitions, and self-denials, God had placed its real happiness in
the keeping of the little mosses of the wayside, and of the clouds
of the firmament. Now and then a weary king, or a tormented slave,
found out where the true kingdoms of the world were, and possessed
himself, in a furrow or two of garden ground, of a truly infinite
dominion. But the world would not believe their report, and went on
trampling down the mosses, and forgetting the clouds, and seeking
happiness in its own way, until, at last, blundering and late, came
natural science; and in natural science not only the observation of
things, but the finding out of new uses for them. Of course the
world, having a choice left to it, went wrong as usual, and thought
that these mere material uses were to be the sources of its
happiness. It got the clouds packed into iron cylinders, and made it
carry its wise self at their own cloud pace. It got weavable fibres
out of the mosses, and made clothes for itself, cheap and
fine,--here was happiness at last. To go as fast as the clouds, and
manufacture everything out of anything,--here was paradise, indeed!

§ 38. And now, when, in a little while, it is unparadised again, if
there were any other mistake that the world could make, it would of
course make it. But I see not that there is any other; and, standing
fairly at its wits' end, having found that going fast, when it is
used to it, is no more paradisiacal than going slow; and that all
the prints and cottons in Manchester cannot make it comfortable in
its mind, I do verily believe it will come, finally, to understand
that God paints the clouds and shapes the moss-fibres, that men may
be happy in seeing Him at His work, and that in resting quietly
beside Him, and watching His working, and--according to the power He
has communicated to ourselves, and the guidance He grants,--in
carrying out His purposes of peace and charity among all His
creatures, are the only real happinesses that ever were, or will be,
possible to mankind.

§ 39. How far art is capable of helping us in such happiness we
hardly yet know; but I hope to be able, in the subsequent parts of
this work, to give some data for arriving at a conclusion in the
matter. Enough has been advanced to relieve the reader from any
lurking suspicion of unworthiness in our subject, and to induce him
to take interest in the mind and work of the great painter who has
headed the landscape school among us. What farther considerations
may, within any reasonable limits, be put before him, respecting the
effect of natural scenery on the human heart, I will introduce in
their proper places either as we examine, under Turner's guidance,
the different classes of scenery, or at the close of the whole work;
and therefore I have only one point more to notice here, namely, the
exact relation between landscape-painting and natural science,
properly so-called.

§ 40. For it may be thought that I have rashly assumed that the
Scriptural authorities above quoted apply to that partly superficial
view of nature which is taken by the landscape-painter, instead of
to the accurate view taken by the man of science. So far from there
being rashness in such an assumption, the whole language, both of
the book of Job and the Sermon on the Mount, gives precisely the
view of nature which is taken by the uninvestigating affection of a
humble, but powerful mind. There is no dissection of muscles or
counting of elements, but the boldest and broadest glance at the
apparent facts, and the most magnificent metaphor in expressing
them. "His eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. In his neck
remaineth strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him." And
in the often repeated, never obeyed, command, "Consider the lilies
of the field," observe there is precisely the delicate attribution
of life which we have seen to be the characteristic of the modern
view of landscape,--"They toil not," There is no science, or hint of
science; no counting of petals, nor display of provisions for
sustenance: nothing but the expression of sympathy, at once the most
childish, and the most profound,--"They toil not."

§ 41. And we see in this, therefore, that the instinct which leads
us thus to attribute life to the lowest forms of organic nature,
does not necessarily spring from faithlessness, nor the deducing a
moral out of them from an irregular and languid conscientiousness.
In this, as in almost all things connected with moral discipline,
the same results may follow from contrary causes; and as there are a
good and evil contentment, a good and evil discontent, a good and
evil care, fear, ambition, and so on, there are also good and evil
forms of this sympathy with nature, and disposition to moralize over
it.[96] In general, active men, of strong sense and stern principle,
do not care to see anything in a leaf, but vegetable tissue, and are
so well convinced of useful moral truth, that it does not strike
them as a new or notable thing when they find it in any way
symbolized by material nature; hence there is a strong presumption,
when first we perceive a tendency in any one to regard trees as
living, and enunciate moral aphorisms over every pebble they stumble
against, that such tendency proceeds from a morbid temperament, like
Shelley's, or an inconsistent one, like Jaques's. But when the
active life is nobly fulfilled, and the mind is then raised beyond
it into clear and calm beholding of the world around us, the same
tendency again manifests itself in the most sacred way: the simplest
forms of nature are strangely animated by the sense of the Divine
presence; the trees and flowers seem all, in a sort, children of
God; and we ourselves, their fellows, made out of the same dust, and
greater than they only in having a greater portion of the Divine
power exerted on our frame, and all the common uses and palpably
visible forms of things, become subordinate in our minds to their
inner glory,--to the mysterious voices in which they talk to us
about God, and the changeful and typical aspects by which they
witness to us of holy truth, and fill us with obedient, joyful, and
thankful emotion.

§ 42. It is in raising us from the first state of inactive reverie
to the second of useful thought, that scientific pursuits are to be
chiefly praised. But in restraining us at this second stage, and
checking the impulses towards higher contemplation, they are to be
feared or blamed. They may in certain minds be consistent with such
contemplation; but only by an effort: in their nature they are
always adverse to it, having a tendency to chill and subdue the
feelings, and to resolve all things into atoms and numbers. For most
men, an ignorant enjoyment is better than an informed one; it is
better to conceive the sky as a blue dome than a dark cavity, and
the cloud as a golden throne than a sleety mist. I much question
whether any one who knows optics, however religious he may be, can
feel in equal degree the pleasure or reverence which an unlettered
peasant may feel at the sight of a rainbow. And it is mercifully
thus ordained, since the law of life, for a finite being, with
respect to the works of an infinite one, must be always an infinite
ignorance. We cannot fathom the mystery of a single flower, nor is
it intended that we should; but that the pursuit of science should
constantly be stayed by the love of beauty, and accuracy of
knowledge by tenderness of emotion.

§ 43. Nor is it even just to speak of the love of beauty as in all
respects unscientific; for there is a science of the aspects of
things as well as of their nature; and it is as much a fact to be
noted in their constitution, that they produce such and such an
effect upon the eye or heart (as, for instance, that minor scales of
sound cause melancholy), as that they are made up of certain atoms
or vibrations of matter.

It is as the master of this science of _Aspects_, that I said, some
time ago, Turner must eventually be named always with Bacon, the
master of the science of _Essence_. As the first poet who has, in
all their range, understood the grounds of noble emotion which exist
in Landscape, his future influence will be of a still more subtle
and important character. The rest of this work will therefore be
dedicated to the explanation of the principles on which he composed,
and of the aspects of nature which he was the first to discern.

  [88] Marmion, Introduction to canto II.

  [89] The investigation of this subject becomes, therefore,
       difficult beyond all other parts of our inquiry, since
       precisely the same sentiments may arise in different minds
       from totally opposite causes; and the extreme of frivolity
       may sometimes for a moment desire the same things as the
       extreme of moral power and dignity. In the following extract
       from "Marriage," the sentiment expressed by Lady Juliana (the
       ineffably foolish and frivolous heroine of the story) is as
       nearly as possible what Dante would have felt, under the same

       "The air was soft and genial; not a cloud stained the bright
       azure of the heavens; and the sun shone out in all his
       splendor, shedding life and beauty even over the desolate
       heath-clad hills of Glenfern. But, after they had journeyed a
       few miles, suddenly emerging from the valley, a scene of
       matchless beauty burst at once upon the eye. Before them lay
       the dark blue waters of Lochmarlie, reflecting, as in a
       mirror, every surrounding object, and bearing on its placid,
       transparent bosom a fleet of herring-boats, the drapery of
       whose black, suspended nets contrasted, with picturesque
       effect, the white sails of the larger vessels, which were
       vainly spread to catch a breeze. All around, rocks, meadows,
       woods, and hills mingled in wild and lovely irregularity.

       "Not a breath was stirring, not a sound was heard, save the
       rushing of a waterfall, the tinkling of some silver rivulet,
       or the calm rippling of the tranquil lake; now and then, at
       intervals, the fisherman's Gaelic ditty, chanted as he lay
       stretched on the sand in some sunny nook; or the shrill,
       distant sound of childish glee. How delicious to the feeling
       heart to behold so fair a scene of unsophisticated nature, and
       to listen to her voice alone, breathing the accents of
       innocence and joy! But none of the party who now gazed on it
       had minds capable of being touched with the emotions it was
       calculated to inspire.

       "Henry, indeed, was rapturous in his expressions of admiration;
       but he concluded his panegyrics by wondering his brother did
       not keep a cutter, and resolving to pass a night on board one
       of the herring-boats, that he might eat the fish in perfection.

       "Lady Juliana thought it might be very pretty, if, instead of
       those frightful rocks and shabby cottages, there could be
       villas, and gardens, and lawns, and conservatories, and
       summer-houses, and statues.

       "Miss Bella observed, if it was hers she would cut down the
       woods, and level the hills, and have races."

  [90] Childe Harold, canto iii. st. 71.

  [91] Scènes et Proverbes. La Crise; (Scène en calèche, hors

  [92] Compare the characters of Fleur de Marie and Rigolette, in
       the Mystères de Paris. I know no other instance in which the
       two tempers are so exquisitely delineated and opposed. Read
       carefully the beautiful pastoral, in the eighth chapter of
       the first Part, where Fleur de Marie is first taken into the
       fields under Montmartre, and compare it with the sixth of the
       second Part, its accurately traced companion sketch, noting
       carefully Rigolette's "Non, _je déteste la campagne_." She
       does not, however, dislike flowers or birds: "Cette caisse de
       bois, que Rigolette appellait le jardin de ses oiseaux, était
       remplie de terre recouverte de mousse, pendant l'hiver. Elle
       travaillait auprès de la fenêtre ouverte, à-demi-voilée par
       un verdoyant rideau de pois de senteur roses, de capucines
       oranges, de volubilis bleus et blancs."

  [93] I have not read Clarissa.

  [94] It might be thought that Young _could_ have sympathized with
       it. He would have made better use of it, but he would not
       have had the same delight in it. He turns his solitude to
       good account; but this is because, to him, solitude is
       sorrow, and his real enjoyment would have been of amiable
       society, and a place at court.

  [95] "The light-outspeeding telegraph
       Bears nothing on its beam."    EMERSON.

       See Appendix III., Plagiarism.

  [96] Compare what is said before in various places of good and bad
       finish, good and bad mystery, &c. If a man were disposed to
       system-making, he could easily throw together a
       counter-system to Aristotle's, showing that in all things
       there were two extremes which exactly resembled each other,
       but of which one was bad, the other good; and a mean,
       resembling neither, but better than the one, and worse than
       the other.



§ 1. The first step to the understanding either the mind or position
of a great man ought, I think, to be an inquiry into the elements of
his early instruction, and the mode in which he was affected by the
circumstances of surrounding life. In making this inquiry, with
respect to Turner, we shall be necessarily led to take note of the
causes which had brought landscape-painting into the state in which
he found it; and, therefore, of those transitions of style which, it
will be remembered, we overleaped (hoping for a future opportunity
of examining them) at the close of the fifteenth chapter.

§ 2. And first, I said, it will be remembered, some way back, that
the relations between Scott and Turner would probably be found to
differ very curiously from those between Dante and Giotto. They
differ primarily in this,--that Dante and Giotto, living in a
consistent age, were subjected to one and the same influence, and
maybe reasoned about almost in similar terms. But Scott and Turner,
living in an inconsistent age, became subjected to inconsistent
influences; and are at once distinguished by notable contrarieties,
requiring separate examination in each.

§ 3. Of these, the chief was that Scott, having had the blessing of
a totally neglected education, was able early to follow most of his
noble instincts; but Turner, having suffered under the instruction
of the Royal Academy, had to pass nearly thirty years of his life in
recovering from its consequences;[97] this permanent result
following for both,--that Scott never was led into any fault
foreign to his nature, but spoke what was in him, in rugged or idle
simplicity; erring only where it was natural to err, and failing
only where it was impossible to succeed. But Turner, from the
beginning, was led into constrained and unnatural error; diligently
debarred from every ordinary help to success. The one thing which
the Academy _ought_ to have taught him (namely, the simple and safe
use of oil color), it never taught him; but it carefully repressed
his perceptions of truth, his capacities of invention, and his
tendencies of choice. For him it was impossible to do right but in
the spirit of defiance; and the first condition of his progress in
learning, was the power to forget.

§ 4. One most important distinction in their feelings throughout
life was necessitated by this difference in early training. Scott
gathered what little knowledge of architecture he possessed, in
wanderings among the rocky walls of Crichtoun, Lochleven, and
Linlithgow, and among the delicate pillars of Holyrood, Roslin, and
Melrose. Turner acquired his knowledge of architecture at the desk,
from academical elevations of the Parthenon and St. Paul's; and
spent a large portion of his early years in taking views of
gentlemen's seats, temples of the Muses, and other productions of
modern taste and imagination; being at the same time directed
exclusively to classical sources for information as to the proper
subjects of art. Hence, while Scott was at once directed to the
history of his native land, and to the Gothic fields of imagination;
and his mind was fed in a consistent, natural, and felicitous way
from his youth up, poor Turner for a long time knew no inspiration
but that of Twickenham; no sublimity but that of Virginia Water. All
the history and poetry presented to him at the age when the mind
receives its dearest associations, were those of the gods and
nations of long ago; and his models of sentiment and style were the
worst and last wrecks of the Renaissance affectations.

§ 5. Therefore (though utterly free from affectation), his early
works are full of an _enforced_ artificialness, and of things
ill-done and ill-conceived, because foreign to his own instincts;
and, throughout life, whatever he did, because he thought he _ought_
to do it, was wrong; all that he planned on any principle, or in
supposed obedience to canons of taste, was false and abortive: he
only did right when he ceased to reflect; was powerful only when he
made no effort, and successful only when he had taken no aim.

§ 6. And it is one of the most interesting things connected with the
study of his art, to watch the way in which his own strength of
English instinct breaks gradually through fetter and formalism; how
from Egerian wells he steals away to Yorkshire streamlets; how from
Homeric rocks, with laurels at the top and caves in the bottom, he
climbs, at last, to Alpine precipices fringed with pine, and fortified
with the slopes of their own ruins; and how from Temples of Jupiter
and Gardens of the Hesperides, a spirit in his feet guides him, at
last, to the lonely arches of Whitby, and bleak sands of Holy Isle.

§ 7. As, however, is the case with almost all inevitable evil, in
its effect on great minds, a certain good rose even out of this
warped education; namely, his power of more completely expressing
all the tendencies of his epoch, and sympathizing with many feelings
and many scenes which must otherwise have been entirely profitless
to him. Scott's mind was just as large and full of sympathy as
Turner's; but having been permitted always to take his own choice
among sources of enjoyment, Scott was entirely incapable of entering
into the spirit of any classical scene. He was strictly a Goth and a
Scot, and his sphere of sensation may be almost exactly limited by
the growth of heather. But Turner had been forced to pay early
attention to whatever of good and right there was even in things
naturally distasteful to him. The charm of early association had
been cast around much that to other men would have been tame: while
making drawings of flower-gardens and Palladian mansions, he had
been taught sympathy with whatever grace or refinement the garden or
mansion could display, and to the close of life could enjoy the
delicacy of trellis and parterre, as well as the wildness of the
wood and the moorland; and watch the staying of the silver fountain
at its appointed height in the sky, with an interest as earnest, if
not as intense, as that with which he followed the crash of the
Alpine cataract into its clouds of wayward rage.

§ 8. The distinct losses to be weighed against this gain are, first,
the waste of time during youth in painting subjects of no interest
whatsoever,--parks, villas, and ugly architecture in general:
secondly, the devotion of its utmost strength in later years to
meaningless classical compositions, such as the Fall and Rise of
Carthage, Bay of Baiæ, Daphne and Leucippus, and such others, which,
with infinite accumulation of material, are yet utterly heartless and
emotionless, dead to the very root of thought, and incapable of
producing wholesome or useful effect on any human mind, except only as
exhibitions of technical skill and graceful arrangement: and, lastly,
his incapacity, to the close of life, of entering heartily into the
spirit of any elevated architecture; for those Palladian and classical
buildings which he had been taught that it was right to admire, being
wholly devoid of interest, and in their own formality and barrenness
quite unmanageable, he was obliged to make them manageable in his
pictures by disguising them, and to use all kinds of playing shadows
and glittering lights to obscure their ugly details; and as in their
best state such buildings are white and colorless, he associated the
idea of whiteness with perfect architecture generally, and was
confused and puzzled when he found it grey. Hence he never got
thoroughly into the feeling of Gothic; its darkness and complexity
embarrassed him; he was very apt to whiten by way of idealizing it,
and to cast aside its details in order to get breadth of delicate
light. In Venice, and the towns of Italy generally, he fastened on the
wrong buildings, and used those which he chose merely as kind of white
clouds, to set off his brilliant groups of boats, or burning spaces of
lagoon. In various other minor ways, which we shall trace in their
proper place, his classical education hindered or hurt him; but I feel
it very difficult to say how far the loss was balanced by the general
grasp it gave his mind; nor am I able to conceive what would have been
the result, if his aims had been made at once narrower and more
natural, and he had been led in his youth to delight in Gothic legends
instead of classical mythology; and, instead of the porticos of the
Parthenon, had studied in the aisles of Notre Dame.

§ 9. It is still more difficult to conjecture whether he gathered
most good or evil from the pictorial art which surrounded him in his
youth. What that art was, and how the European schools had arrived
at it, it now becomes necessary briefly to inquire.

It will be remembered that, in the 14th chapter, we left our
mediæval landscape (§ 18.) in a state of severe formality, and
perfect subordination to the interest of figure subject. I will now
rapidly trace the mode and progress of its emancipation.

§ 10. The formalized conception of scenery remained little altered
until the time of Raphael, being only better executed as the
knowledge of art advanced; that is to say, though the trees were
still stiff, and often set one on each side of the principal
figures, their color and relief on the sky were exquisitely
imitated, and all groups of near leaves and flowers drawn with the
most tender care, and studious botanical accuracy. The better the
subjects were painted, however, the more logically absurd they
became: a background wrought in Chinese confusion of towers and
rivers, was in early times passed over carelessly, and forgiven for
the sake of its pleasant color; but it appealed somewhat too far to
imaginative indulgence when Ghirlandajo drew an exquisite
perspective view of Venice and her lagoons behind an Adoration of
the Magi;[98] and the impossibly small boats which might be pardoned
in a mere illumination, representing the miraculous draught of
fishes, became, whatever may be said to the contrary, inexcusably
absurd in Raphael's fully realized landscape; so as at once to
destroy the credibility of every circumstance of the event.

§ 11. A certain charm, however, attached itself to many forms of
this landscape, owing to their very unnaturalness, as I have
endeavored to explain already in the last chapter of the second
volume, §§ 9. to 12.; noting, however, there, that it was in no wise
to be made a subject of imitation; a conclusion which I have since
seen more and more ground for holding finally. The longer I think
over the subject, the more I perceive that the pleasure we take in
such unnatural landscapes is intimately connected with our habit of
regarding the New Testament as a beautiful poem, instead of a
statement of plain facts. He who believes thoroughly that the events
are true will expect, and ought to expect, real olive copse behind
real Madonna, and no sentimental absurdities in either.

[Illustration: 11. Latest Purism.]

§ 12. Nor am I at all sure how far the delight which we take (when I
say _we_, I mean, in general, lovers of old sacred art) in such
quaint landscape, arises from its peculiar _falsehood_, and how far
from its peculiar _truth_. For as it falls into certain errors more
boldly, so, also, what truth it states, it states more firmly than
subsequent work. No engravings, that I know, render the backgrounds
of sacred pictures with sufficient care to enable the reader to
judge of this matter unless before the works themselves. I have,
therefore, engraved, on the opposite page, a bit of the background
of Raphael's Holy Family, in the Tribune of the Uffizii, at
Florence. I copied the trees leaf for leaf, and the rest of the work
with the best care I could; the engraver, Mr. Armytage, has
admirably rendered the delicate atmosphere which partly veils the
distance. Now I do not know how far it is necessary to such pleasure
as we receive from this landscape, that the trees should be both so
straight and formal in stem, and should have branches no thicker
than threads; or that the outlines of the distant hills should
approximate so closely to those on any ordinary Wedgewood's china
pattern. I know that, on the contrary, a great part of the pleasure
arises from the sweet expression of air and sunshine; from the
traceable resemblance of the city and tower to Florence and Fesole;
from the fact that, though the boughs are too thin, the lines of
ramification are true and beautiful; and from the expression of
continually varied form in the clusters of leafage. And although all
lovers of sacred art would shrink in horror from the idea of
substituting for such a landscape a bit of Cuyp or Rubens, I do not
think that the horror they feel is because Cuyp and Rubens's
landscape is _truer_, but because it is _coarser_ and more vulgar in
associated idea than Raphael's; and I think it possible that the
true forms of hills, and true thicknesses of boughs, might be
tenderly stolen into this background of Raphael's without giving
offence to any one.

§ 13. Take a somewhat more definite instance. The rock in Fig. 5.,
at the side, is one put by Ghirlandajo into the background of his
Baptism of Christ. I have no doubt Ghirlandajo's own rocks and trees
are better, in several respects, than those here represented, since
I have copied them from one of Lasinio's execrable engravings;
still, the harsh outline, and generally stiff and uninventful
blankness of the design are true enough, and characteristic of all
rock-painting of the period. In the plate below I have etched[99]
the outline of a fragment of one of Turner's cliffs, out of his
drawing of Bolton Abbey; and it does not seem to me that, supposing
them properly introduced in the composition, the substitution of the
soft natural lines for the hard unnatural ones would make
Ghirlandajo's background one whit less sacred.

[Illustration: FIG. 5.]

§ 14. But be this as it may, the fact is, as ill luck would have it,
that profanity of feeling, and skill in art, increased together; so
that we do not find the backgrounds rightly painted till the figures
become irreligious and feelingless; and hence we associate
necessarily the perfect landscape with want of feeling. The first
great innovator was either Masaccio or Filippino Lippi: their works
are so confused together in the Chapel of the Carmine, that I know
not to whom I may attribute,--or whether, without being immediately
quarrelled with, and contradicted, I may attribute to anybody,--the
landscape background of the fresco of the Tribute Money. But that
background, with one or two other fragments in the same
chapel, is far in advance of all other work I have seen of the
period, in expression of the rounded contours and large slopes of
hills, and the association of their summits with the clouds. The
opposite engraving will give some better idea of its character than
can be gained from the outlines commonly published; though the dark
spaces, which in the original are deep blue, come necessarily
somewhat too harshly on the eye when translated into light and
shade. I shall have occasion to speak with greater speciality of
this background in examining the forms of hills; meantime, it is
only as an isolated work that it can be named in the history of
pictorial progress, for Masaccio died too young to carry out his
purposes; and the men around him were too ignorant of landscape to
understand or take advantage of the little he had done. Raphael,
though he borrowed from him in the human figure, never seems to have
been influenced by his landscape, and retains either, as in Plate
11., the upright formalities of Perugino; or, by way of being
natural, expands his distances into flattish flakes of hill, nearly
formless, as in the backgrounds of the Charge to Peter and Draught
of Fishes; and thenceforward the Tuscan and Roman schools grew more
and more artificial, and lost themselves finally under round-headed
niches and Corinthian porticos.

[Illustration: 12. The Shores of Wharfe.]

[Illustration: 13. First Mountain Naturalism.]

[Illustration: 14. The Lombard Apennine.]

[Illustration: 15. St. George of the Seaweed.]

§ 15. It needed, therefore, the air of the northern mountains and of
the sea to brace the hearts of men to the development of the true
landscape schools. I sketched by chance one evening the line of the
Apennines from the ramparts of Parma, and I have put the rough note
of it, and the sky that was over it, in Plate 14., and next to this
(Plate 15.) a moment of sunset, behind the Euganean hills at Venice.
I shall have occasion to refer to both hereafter; but they have some
interest here as types of the kind of scenes which were daily set
before the eyes of Correggio and Titian, and of the sweet free
spaces of sky through which rose and fell, to them, the colored rays
of the morning and evening.

§ 16. And they are connected, also, with the forms of landscape
adopted by the Lombardic masters, in a very curious way. We noticed
that the Flemings, educated entirely in flat land, seemed to be
always contented with the scenery it supplied; and we should
naturally have expected that Titian and Correggio, living in the
midst of the levels of the lagoons, and of the plain of Lombardy,
would also have expressed, in their backgrounds, some pleasure in
such level scenery, associated, of course, with the sublimity of the
far-away Apennine, Euganean, or Alp. But not a whit. The plains of
mulberry and maize, of sea and shoal, by which they were surrounded,
never occur in their backgrounds but in cases of necessity; and both
of them, in all their important landscapes, bury themselves in wild
wood; Correggio delighting to relieve with green darkness of oak and
ivy the golden hair and snowy flesh of his figures; and Titian,
whenever the choice of a scene was in his power, retiring to the
narrow glens and forests of Cadore.

§ 17. Of the vegetation introduced by both, I shall have to speak at
length in the course of the chapters on Foliage; meantime, I give in
Plate 16. one of Titian's slightest bits of background, from one of
the frescoes in the little chapel behind St. Antonio, at Padua,
which may be compared more conveniently than any of his more
elaborate landscapes with the purist work from Raphael. For in both
these examples the trees are equally slender and delicate, only the
formality of mediæval art is, by Titian, entirely abandoned, and the
old conception of the aspen grove and meadow done away with for
ever. We are now far from cities: the painter takes true delight in
the desert; the trees grow wild and free; the sky also has lost its
peace, and is writhed into folds of motion, closely impendent upon
earth, and somewhat threatening, through its solemn light.

§ 18. Although, however, this example is characteristic of Titian in
its wildness, it is not so in its _looseness_. It is only in the
distant backgrounds of the slightest work, or when he is in a hurry,
that Titian is vague: in all his near and studied work he completes
every detail with scrupulous care. The next Plate, 17., a background
of Tintoret's, from his picture of the Entombment at Parma, is more
entirely characteristic of the Venetians. Some mistakes made in the
reduction of my drawing during the course of engraving have cramped
the curves of the boughs and leaves, of which I will give the true
outline farther on; meantime the subject, which is that described in
§ 16. of the chapter on Penetrative Imagination, Vol. II., will just
as well answer the purpose of exemplifying the Venetian love of
gloom and wildness, united with perfect definition of detail. Every
leaf and separate blade of grass is drawn; but observe how the
blades of grass are broken, how completely the aim at expression of
faultlessness and felicity has been withdrawn, as contrary to the
laws of the existent world.

[Illustration: 16. Early Naturalism.]

[Illustration: 17. Advanced Naturalism.]

§ 19. From this great Venetian school of landscape Turner received
much important teaching,--almost the only healthy teaching which he
owed to preceding art. The designs of the Liber Studiorum are founded
first on nature, but in many cases modified by _forced_ imitation of
Claude, and _fond_ imitation of Titian. All the worst and feeblest
studies in the book--as the pastoral with the nymph playing the
tambourine, that with the long bridge seen through trees, and with the
flock of goats on the walled road--owe the principal part of their
imbecilities to Claude; another group (Solway Moss, Peat Bog,
Lauffenbourg, &c.) is taken with hardly any modification by pictorial
influence, straight from nature; and the finest works in the book--the
Grande Chartreuse, Rizpah, Jason, Cephalus, and one or two more--are
strongly under the influence of Titian.

§ 20. The Venetian school of landscape expired with Tintoret, in the
year 1594; and the sixteenth century closed, like a grave, over the
great art of the world. There is _no_ entirely sincere or great art
in the seventeenth century. Rubens and Rembrandt are its two
greatest men, both deeply stained by the errors and affectations of
their age. The influence of the Venetians hardly extended to them;
the tower of the Titianesque art fell southwards; and on the dust of
its ruins grew various art-weeds, such as Domenichino and the
Carraccis. Their landscape, which may in few words be accurately
defined as "Scum of Titian," possesses no single merit, nor any
ground for the forgiveness of demerit; they are to be named only as
a link through which the Venetian influence came dimly down to
Claude and Salvator.

§ 21. Salvator possessed real genius, but was crushed by misery in his
youth, and by fashionable society in his age. He had vigorous animal
life, and considerable invention, but no depth either of thought or
perception. He took some hints directly from nature, and expressed
some conditions of the grotesque of terror with original power; but
his baseness of thought, and bluntness of sight, were unconquerable;
and his works possess no value whatsoever for any person versed in the
walks of noble art. They had little, if any, influence on Turner; if
any, it was in blinding him for some time to the grace of tree trunks,
and making him tear them too much into splinters.

§ 22. Not so Claude, who may be considered as Turner's principal
master. Claude's capacities were of the most limited kind; but he
had tenderness of perception, and sincerity of purpose, and he
effected a revolution in art. This revolution consisted mainly in
setting the sun in heaven.[100] Till Claude's time no one had
seriously thought of painting the sun but conventionally; that is to
say, as a red or yellow star, (often) with a face in it, under which
type it was constantly represented in illumination; else it was kept
out of the picture, or introduced in fragmentary distances, breaking
through clouds with almost definite rays. Perhaps the honor of
having first tried to represent the real effect of the sun in
landscape belongs to Bonifazio, in his pictures of the camps of
Israel.[101] Rubens followed in a kind of bravado, sometimes making
the rays issue from anything but the orb of the sun;--here, for
instance, Fig. 6., is an outline of the position of the sun (at _s_)
with respect to his own rays, in a sunset behind a tournament in the
Louvre: and various interesting effects of sunlight issuing from the
conventional face-filled orb occur in contemporary missal-painting;
for instance, very richly in the Harleian MS. Brit. Mus. 3469. But
all this was merely indicative of the tendency to transition which
may always be traced in any age before the man comes who is to
_accomplish_ the transition. Claude took up the new idea seriously,
made the sun his subject, and painted the effects of misty shadows
cast by his rays over the landscape, and other delicate aerial
transitions, as no one had ever done before, and, in some respects,
as no one has done in oil color since.

§ 23. "But, how, if this were so, could his capacities be of the
meanest order?" Because doing _one_ thing well, or better than others
have done it, does not necessarily imply large capacity. Capacity
means breadth of glance, understanding of the relations of things, and
invention, and these are rare and precious; but there are very few men
who have not done _something_, in the course of their lives, better
than other people. I could point out many engravers, draughtsmen, and
artists, who have each a particular merit in their manner, or
particular field of perception, that nobody else has, or ever had. But
this does not make them great men, it only indicates a small special
capacity of some kind: and all the smaller if the gift be very
peculiar and single; for a great man never so limits himself to one
thing, as that we shall be able to say, "That's all he can do." If
Claude had been a great man he would not have been so steadfastly set
on painting effects of sun; he would have looked at all nature, and at
all art, and would have painted sun effects somewhat worse, and nature
universally much better.

[Illustration: FIG. 6.]

§ 24. Such as he was, however, his discovery of the way to make
pictures look warm was very delightful to the shallow connoisseurs
of the age. Not that they cared for sunshine; but they liked seeing
jugglery. They could not feel Titian's noble color, nor Veronese's
noble composition; but they thought it highly amusing to see the sun
brought into a picture: and Claude's works were bought and
delighted in by vulgar people then, for their real-looking suns, as
pictures are now by vulgar people for having real timepieces in
their church towers.

§ 25. But when Turner arose, with an earnest desire to paint the
whole of nature, he found that the existence of the sun was an
important fact, and by no means an easily manageable one. _He_ loved
sunshine for its own sake; but he could not at first paint it. Most
things else, he would more or less manage without much technical
difficulty; but the burning orb and the golden haze could not,
somehow, be got out of the oil paint. Naturally he went to Claude,
who really had got them out of oil paint; approached him with great
reverence, as having done that which seemed to Turner most difficult
of all technical matters, and he became his faithful disciple. How
much he learned from him of manipulation, I cannot tell; but one
thing is certain, that he never quite equalled him in that
particular forte of his. I imagine that Claude's way of laying on
oil color was so methodical that it could not possibly be imitated
by a man whose mechanism was interfered with by hundreds of thoughts
and aims totally different from Claude's; and, besides, I suppose
that certain useful principles in the management of paint, of which
our schools are now wholly ignorant, had come down as far as Claude,
from the Venetians. Turner at last gave up the attempt, and adopted
a manipulation of his own, which indeed effected certain objects
attainable in no other way, but which still was in many respects
unsatisfactory, dangerous, and deeply to be regretted.

§ 26. But meantime his mind had been strongly warped by Claude's
futilities of conception. It was impossible to dwell on such works for
any length of time without being grievously harmed by them; and the
style of Turner's compositions was for ever afterwards weakened or
corrupted. For, truly, it is almost beyond belief into what depth of
absurdity Claude plunges continually in his most admired designs. For
instance; undertaking to paint Moses at the Burning Bush, he
represents a graceful landscape with a city, a river, and a bridge,
and plenty of tall trees, and the sea, and numbers of people going
about their business and pleasure in every direction; and the bush
burning quietly upon a bank in the corner; rather in the dark, and
not to be seen without close inspection. It would take some pages of
close writing to point out, one by one, the inanities of heart, soul,
and brain which such a conception involves; the ineffable ignorance of
the nature of the event, and of the scene of it; the incapacity of
conceiving anything even _in_ ignorance, which should be impressive;
the dim, stupid, serene, leguminous enjoyment of his sunny
afternoon--burn the bushes as much as they liked--these I leave the
reader to think over at his leisure, either before the picture in Lord
Ellesmere's gallery, or the sketch of it in the Liber Veritatis. But
all these kinds of fallacy sprung more or less out of the vices of the
time in which Claude lived; his own peculiar character reaches beyond
these, to an incapacity of understanding the _main point_ in anything
he had to represent, down to the minutest detail, which is quite
unequalled, as far as I know, in human nugatoriness. For instance;
here, in Fig. 7., is the head, with half the body, of Eneas drawing
his Bow, from No. 180. of the Liber Veritatis. Observe, the string is
too long by half; for if the bow were unbent, it would be two feet
longer than the whole bow. Then the arrow is too long by half, has too
heavy a head by half; and finally, it actually is _under_ the
bow-hand, instead of above it. Of the ideal and heroic refinement of
the head and drapery I will say nothing; but look only at the wretched
archery, and consider if it would be possible for any child to draw
the thing with less understanding, or to make more mistakes in the
given compass.[102]

[Illustration: FIG. 7.]

§ 27. And yet, exquisite as is Claude's instinct for blunder, he has
not strength of mind enough to blunder in a wholly original manner,
but he must needs falter out of his way to pick up other people's
puerilities, and be absurd at second-hand. I have been obliged to
laugh a little--though I hope reverently--at Ghirlandajo's
landscapes, which yet we saw had a certain charm of quaintness in
them when contrasted with his grand figures; but could any one have
believed that Claude, with all the noble landscapes of Titian set
before him, and all nature round about him, should yet go back to
Ghirlandajo for types of form. Yet such is the case. I said that the
Venetian influence came dimly down to Claude; but the old Florentine
influence came clearly. The Claudesque landscape is not, as so
commonly supposed, an idealized abstract of the nature about Rome.
It is an ultimate condition of the Florentine conventional
landscape, more or less softened by reference to nature. Fig. 8.,
from No. 145. of the Liber Veritatis, is sufficiently characteristic
of Claude's rock-drawing; and compared with Fig. 5. (p. 314), will
show exactly the kind of modification he made on old and received
types. We shall see other instances of it hereafter.

[Illustration: FIG. 8.]

Imagine this kind of reproduction of whatever other people had done
worst, and this kind of misunderstanding of all that he saw himself
in nature, carried out in Claude's trees, rocks, ships--in
everything that he touched,--and then consider what kind of school
this work was for a young and reverent disciple. As I said, Turner
never recovered the effects of it; his compositions were always
mannered, lifeless, and even foolish; and he only did noble things
when the immediate presence of nature had overpowered the
reminiscences of his master.

§ 28. Of the influence of Gaspar and Nicolo Poussin on Turner, there
is hardly anything to be said, nor much respecting that which they
had on landscape generally. Nicolo Poussin had noble powers of
design, and might have been a thoroughly great painter had he been
trained in Venice; but his Roman education kept him tame; his
trenchant severity was contrary to the tendencies of the age, and
had few imitators compared to the dashing of Salvator, and the mist
of Claude. Those few imitators adopted his manner without possessing
either his science or invention; and the Italian school of landscape
soon expired. Reminiscences of him occur sometimes in Turner's
compositions of sculptured stones for foreground; and the beautiful
Triumph of Flora, in the Louvre, probably first showed Turner the
use of definite flower, or blossom-painting, in landscape. I doubt
if he took anything from Gaspar; whatever he might have learned from
him respecting masses of foliage and golden distances, could have
been learned better, and, I believe, _was_ learned, from Titian.

§ 29. Meantime, a lower, but more living school had developed itself
in the north; Cuyp had painted sunshine as truly as Claude, gilding
with it a more homely, but far more honestly conceived landscape; and
the effects of light of De Hooghe and Rembrandt presented examples of
treatment to which southern art could show no parallel. Turner
evidently studied these with the greatest care, and with great benefit
in every way; especially this, that they neutralized the idealisms of
Claude, and showed the young painter what power might be in plain
truth, even of the most familiar kind. He painted several pictures in
imitation of these masters; and those in which he tried to rival Cuyp
are healthy and noble works, being, in fact, just what most of Cuyp's
own pictures are--faithful studies of Dutch boats in calm weather, on
smooth water. De Hooghe was too precise, and Rembrandt too dark, to be
successfully or affectionately followed by him; but he evidently
learned much from both.

§ 30. Finally, he painted many pictures in the manner of Vandevelde
(who was the accepted authority of his time in sea painting), and
received much injury from him. To the close of his life, Turner
always painted the sea too grey, and too opaque, in consequence of
his early study of Vandevelde. He never seemed to perceive color so
truly in the sea as he saw it elsewhere. But he soon discovered the
poorness of Vandevelde's forms of waves, and raised their meanly
divided surfaces into massive surge, effecting rapidly other
changes, of which more in another place.

Such was the art to which Turner, in early years, devoted his most
earnest thoughts. More or less respectful contemplation of Reynolds,
Loutherbourg, Wilson, Gainsborough, Morland, and Wilkie, was
incidentally mingled with his graver study; and he maintained a
questioning watchfulness of even the smallest successes of his
brother artists of the modern landscape school. It remains for us
only to note the position of that living school when Turner, helped
or misled, as the case may be, by the study of the older artists,
began to consider what remained for him to do, or design.

§ 31. The dead schools of landscape, composed of the works we have
just been examining, were broadly divisible into northern and
southern: the Dutch schools, more or less natural, but vulgar; the
Italian, more or less elevated, but absurd. There was a certain
foolish elegance in Claude, and a dull dignity in Gaspar; but then
their work resembled nothing that ever existed in the world. On the
contrary, a canal or cattle piece of Cuyp's had many veracities
about it; but they were, at best, truths of the ditch and dairy. The
grace of nature, or her gloom, her tender and sacred seclusions, or
her reach of power and wrath, had never been painted; nor had
_anything_ been painted yet in true _love_ of it; for both Dutch and
Italians agreed in this, that they always painted for the
_picture's_ sake, to show how well they could imitate sunshine,
arrange masses, or articulate straws,--never because they loved the
scene, or wanted to carry away some memory of it.

And thus, all that landscape of the old masters is to be considered
merely as a struggle of expiring skill to discover some new
direction in which to display itself. There was no love of nature in
the age; only a desire for something new. Therefore those schools
expired at last, leaving the chasm of nearly utter emptiness between
them and the true moderns, out of which chasm the new school rises,
not engrafted on that old one, but, from the very base of all
things, beginning with mere washes of Indian ink, touched upon with
yellow and brown; and gradually feeling its way to color.

But this infant school differed inherently from that ancienter one,
in that its motive was love. However feeble its efforts might be,
they were _for the sake of the nature_, not of the picture, and
therefore, having this germ of true life, it grew and throve. Robson
did not paint purple hills because he wanted to show how he could
lay on purple; but because he truly loved their dark peaks. Fielding
did not paint downs to show how dexterously he could sponge out
mists; but because he loved downs.

This modern school, therefore, became the only true school of
landscape which had yet existed; the artificial Claude and Gaspar
work may be cast aside out of our way,--as I have said in my
Edinburgh lectures, under the general title of "pastoralism,"--and
from the last landscape of Tintoret, if we look for _life_, we must
pass at once to the first of Turner.

§ 32. What help Turner received from this or that companion of his
youth is of no importance to any one now. Of course every great man is
always being helped by everybody,[103] for his gift is to get good out
of all things and all persons; and also there were two men associated
with him in early study, who showed high promise in the same field,
Cousen and Girtin (especially the former), and there is no saying what
these men might have done had they lived; there might, perhaps, have
been a struggle between one or other of them and Turner, as between
Giorgione and Titian. But they lived not; and Turner is the only great
man whom the school has yet produced,--quite great enough, as we shall
see, for all that needed to be done. To him, therefore, we now finally
turn, as the sole object of our inquiry. I shall first reinforce, with
such additions as they need, those statements of his general
principles which I made in the first volume, but could not then
demonstrate fully, for want of time to prepare pictorial illustration;
and then proceed to examine, piece by piece, his representations of
the facts of nature, comparing them, as it may seem expedient, with
what had been accomplished by others.

       *       *       *       *       *

I cannot close this volume without alluding briefly to a subject of
different interest from any that have occupied us in its pages. For
it may, perhaps, seem to a general reader heartless and vain to
enter zealously into questions about our arts and pleasures in a
time of so great public anxiety as this.

But he will find, if he looks back to the sixth paragraph of the
opening chapter of the last volume, some statement of feelings,
which, as they made me despondent in a time of apparent national
prosperity, now cheer me in one which, though of stern trial, I will
not be so much a coward as to call one of adversity. And I derive
this encouragement first from the belief that the War itself, with
all its bitterness, is, in the present state of the European
nations, productive of more good than evil; and, secondly, because I
have more confidence than others generally entertain, in the justice
of its cause.

I say, first, because I believe the war is at present productive of
good more than of evil. I will not argue this hardly and coldly, as
I might, by tracing in past history some of the abundant evidence
that nations have always reached their highest virtue, and wrought
their most accomplished works, in times of straitening and battle;
as, on the other hand, no nation ever yet enjoyed a protracted and
triumphant peace without receiving in its own bosom ineradicable
seeds of future decline. I will not so argue this matter; but I will
appeal at once to the testimony of those whom the war has cost the
dearest. I know what would be told me, by those who have suffered
nothing; whose domestic happiness has been unbroken; whose daily
comfort undisturbed; whose experience of calamity consists, at its
utmost, in the incertitude of a speculation, the dearness of a
luxury, or the increase of demands upon their fortune which they
could meet fourfold without inconvenience. From these, I can well
believe, be they prudent economists, or careless pleasure-seekers,
the cry for peace will rise alike vociferously, whether in street or
senate. But I ask _their_ witness, to whom the war has changed the
aspect of the earth, and imagery of heaven, whose hopes it has cut
off like a spider's web, whose treasure it has placed, in a moment,
under the seals of clay. Those who can never more see sunrise, nor
watch the climbing light gild the Eastern clouds, without thinking
what graves it has gilded, first, far down behind the dark
earth-line,--who never more shall see the crocus bloom in spring,
without thinking what dust it is that feeds the wild flowers of
Balaclava. Ask _their_ witness, and see if they will not reply that
it is well with them, and with theirs; that they would have it no
otherwise; would not, if they might, receive back their gifts of
love and life, nor take again the purple of their blood out of the
cross on the breastplate of England. Ask them: and though they
should answer only with a sob, listen if it does not gather upon
their lips into the sound of the old Seyton war-cry--"Set on."

And this not for pride--not because the names of their lost ones
will be recorded to all time, as of those who held the breach and
kept the gate of Europe against the North, as the Spartans did
against the East; and lay down in the place they had to guard, with
the like home message, "Oh, stranger, go and tell the English that
we are lying here, having obeyed their words;"--not for this, but
because, also, they have felt that the spirit which has discerned
them for eminence in sorrow--the helmed and sworded skeleton that
rakes with its white fingers the sands of the Black Sea beach into
grave-heap after grave-heap, washed by everlasting surf of
tears--has been to them an angel of other things than agony; that
they have learned, with those hollow, undeceivable eyes of his, to
see all the earth by the sunlight of deathbeds;--no inch-high stage
for foolish griefs and feigned pleasures; no dream, neither, as its
dull moralists told them;--_Any_thing but that: a place of true,
marvellous, inextricable sorrow and power; a question-chamber of
trial by rack and fire, irrevocable decision recording continually;
and no sleep, nor folding of hands, among the demon-questioners;
none among the angel-watchers, none among the men who stand or fall
beside those hosts of God. They know now the strength of sacrifice,
and that its flames can illumine as well as consume; they are bound
by new fidelities to all that they have saved,--by new love to all
for whom they have suffered; every affection which seemed to sink
with those dim life-stains into the dust, has been delegated, by
those who need it no more, to the cause for which they have expired;
and every mouldering arm, which will never more embrace the beloved
ones, has bequeathed to them its strength and its faithfulness.

For the cause of this quarrel is no dim, half-avoidable involution
of mean interests and errors, as some would have us believe. There
never was a great war caused by such things. There never can be. The
historian may trace it, with ingenious trifling, to a courtier's
jest or a woman's glance; but he does not ask--(and it is the sum of
questions)--how the warring nations had come to found their
destinies on the course of the sneer, or the smile. If they have so
based them, it is time for them to learn, through suffering, how to
build on other foundations--for great, accumulated, and most
righteous cause, their foot slides in due time; and against the
torpor, or the turpitude, of their myriads, there is loosed the
haste of the devouring sword and the thirsty arrow. But if they have
set their fortunes on other than such ground, then the war must be
owing to some deep conviction or passion in their own hearts,--a
conviction which, in resistless flow, or reckless ebb, or consistent
stay, is the ultimate arbiter of battle, disgrace, or conquest.

Wherever there is war, there _must_ be injustice on one side or the
other, or on both. There have been wars which were little more than
trials of strength between friendly nations, and in which the
injustice was not to each other, but to the God who gave them life.
But in a malignant war of these present ages there is injustice of
ignobler kind, at once to God and man, which _must_ be stemmed for
both their sakes. It may, indeed, be so involved with national
prejudices, or ignorances, that neither of the contending nations
can conceive it as attaching to their cause; nay, the constitution
of their governments, and the clumsy crookedness of their political
dealings with each other, may be such as to prevent either of them
from knowing the actual cause for which they have gone to war.
Assuredly this is, in a great degree, the state of things with _us_;
for I noticed that there never came news by telegraph of the
explosion of a powder-barrel, or of the loss of thirty men by a
sortie, but the Parliament lost confidence immediately in the
justice of the war; reopened the question whether we ever should
have engaged in it, and remained in a doubtful and repentant state
of mind until one of the enemy's powder-barrels blew up also; upon
which they were immediately satisfied again that the war was a wise
and necessary one. How far, therefore, the calamity may have been
brought upon us by men whose political principles shoot annually
like the leaves, and change color at every autumn frost:--how loudly
the blood that has been poured out round the walls of that city, up
to the horse-bridles, may now be crying from the ground against men
who did not know, when they first bade shed it, exactly what war
was, or what blood was, or what life was, or truth, or what anything
else was upon the earth; and whose tone of opinions touching the
destinies of mankind depended entirely upon whether they were
sitting on the right or left side of the House of Commons;--this, I
repeat, I know not, nor (in all solemnity I say it) do I care to
know. For if it be so, and the English nation could at the present
period of its history be betrayed into a war such as this by the
slipping of a wrong word into a protocol, or bewitched into
unexpected battle under the budding hallucinations of its sapling
senators, truly it is time for us to bear the penalty of our
baseness, and learn, as the sleepless steel glares close upon us,
how to choose our governors more wisely, and our ways more warily.
For that which brings swift punishment in war, must have brought
slow ruin in peace; and those who have now laid down their lives for
England, have doubly saved her; they have humbled at once her
enemies and herself; and have done less for her, in the conquest
they achieve, than in the sorrow that they claim.

But it is not altogether thus: we have not been cast into this war
by mere political misapprehensions, or popular ignorances. It is
quite possible that neither we nor our rulers may clearly understand
the nature of the conflict; and that we may be dealing blows in the
dark, confusedly, and as a soldier suddenly awakened from slumber by
an unknown adversary. But I believe the struggle was inevitable, and
that the sooner it came, the more easily it was to be met, and the
more nobly concluded. France and England are both of them, from
shore to shore, in a state of intense progression, change, and
experimental life. They are each of them beginning to examine, more
distinctly than ever nations did yet in the history of the world,
the dangerous question respecting the rights of governed, and the
responsibilities of governing, bodies; not, as heretofore; foaming
over them in red frenzy, with intervals of fetter and straw crown,
but in health, quietness, and daylight, with the help of a good
Queen and a great Emperor; and to determine them in a way which, by
just so much as it is more effective and rational, is likely to
produce more permanent results than ever before on the policy of
neighboring States, and to force, gradually, the discussion of
similar questions into their places of silence. To force it,--for
true liberty, like true religion, is always aggressive or
persecuted; but the attack is _generally_ made upon it by the nation
which is to be crushed,--by Persian on Athenian, Tuscan on Roman,
Austrian on Swiss; or, as now, by Russia upon us and our allies: her
attack appointed, it seems to me, for confirmation of all our
greatness, trial of our strength, purging and punishment of our
futilities, and establishment for ever, in our hands, of the
leadership in the political progress of the world.

Whether this its providential purpose be accomplished, must depend
on its enabling France and England to love one another, and teaching
these, the two noblest foes that ever stood breast to breast among
the nations, first to decipher the law of international charities;
first to discern that races, like individuals, can only reach their
true strength, dignity, or joy, in seeking each the welfare, and
exulting each in the glory, of the other. It is strange how far we
still seem from fully perceiving this. We know that two men, cast on
a desert island, could not thrive in dispeace; we can understand
that four, or twelve, might still find their account in unity; but
that a multitude should thrive otherwise than by the contentions of
its classes, or _two_ multitudes hold themselves in anywise bound by
brotherly law to serve, support, rebuke, rejoice in one another,
this seems still as far beyond our conception, as the clearest of
commandments, "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's
wealth," is beyond our habitual practice. Yet, if once we comprehend
that precept in its breadth, and feel that what we now call jealousy
for our country's honor, is, so far as it tends to other countries'
_dis_honor, merely one of the worst, because most complacent and
self-gratulatory, forms of irreligion,--a newly breathed strength
will, with the newly interpreted patriotism, animate and sanctify
the efforts of men. Learning, unchecked by envy, will be accepted
more frankly, throned more firmly, guided more swiftly; charity,
unchilled by fear, will dispose the laws of each State without
reluctance to advantage its neighbor by justice to itself; and
admiration, unwarped by prejudice, possess itself continually of new
treasure in the arts and the thoughts of the stranger.

If France and England fail of this, if again petty jealousies or
selfish interests prevail to unknit their hands from the armored
grasp, then, indeed, their faithful children will have fallen in
vain; there will be a sound as of renewed lamentation along those
Euxine waves, and a shaking among the bones that bleach by the
mounds of Sebastopol. But if they fail not of this,--if we, in our
love of our queens and kings, remember how France gave to the cause
of early civilization, first the greatest, then the holiest, of
monarchs;[104] and France, in her love of liberty, remembers how
_we_ first raised the standard of Commonwealth, trusted to the grasp
of one good and strong hand, witnessed for by victory; and so join
in perpetual compact of our different strengths, to contend for
justice, mercy, and truth throughout the world,--who dares say that
one soldier has died in vain? The scarlet of the blood that has
sealed this covenant will be poured along the clouds of a new
aurora, glorious in that Eastern heaven; for every sob of wreck-fed
breaker round those Pontic precipices, the floods shall clap their
hands between the guarded mounts of the Prince-Angel; and the
spirits of those lost multitudes, crowned with the olive and rose
among the laurel, shall haunt, satisfied, the willowy brooks and
peaceful vales of England, and glide, triumphant, by the poplar
groves and sunned coteaux of Seine.

  [97] The education here spoken of is, of course, that bearing on
       the main work of life. In other respects, Turner's education
       was more neglected than Scott's, and that not beneficently.
       See the close of the third of my Edinburgh Lectures.

  [98] The picture is in the Uffizii of Florence.

  [99] This etching is prepared for receiving mezzotint in the next
       volume; it is therefore much heavier in line, especially in
       the water, than I should have made it, if intended to be
       complete as it is.

  [100] Compare Vol. I. Part II. Sec. I. Chap. VII. I repeat here
        some things that were then said; but it is necessary now to
        review them in connection with Turner's education, as well
        as for the sake of enforcing them by illustration.

  [101] Now in the old library of Venice.

  [102] My old friend Blackwood complains bitterly, in his last
        number, of my having given this illustration at one of my
        late lectures, saying, that I "have a disagreeable knack of
        finding out the joints in my opponent's armor," and that "I
        never fight for love." I never do. I fight for truth,
        earnestly, and in no wise for jest; and against all lies,
        earnestly, and in no wise for love. They complain that "a
        noble adversary is not in Mr. Ruskin's way." No; a noble
        adversary never was, never will be. With all that is noble
        I have been, and shall be, in perpetual peace, with all that
        is ignoble and false everlastingly at war. And as for these
        Scotch _bourgeois gentilshommes_ with their "Tu n'as pas la
        patience que je pare," let them look to their fence. But
        truly, if they will tell me where Claude's strong points
        are, I will strike there, and be thankful.

  [103] His first drawing master was, I believe, that Mr. Lowe,
        whose daughters, now aged and poor, have, it seems to me,
        some claim on public regard, being connected distantly with
        the memory of Johnson, and closely with that of Turner.

  [104] Charlemagne and St. Louis.



The reader may not improbably hear it said, by persons who are
incapable of maintaining an honest argument, and therefore incapable
of understanding or believing the honesty of an adversary, that I
have caricatured, or unfairly chosen, the examples I give of the
masters I depreciate. It is evident, in the first place, that I
could not, if I were even cunningly disposed, adopt a worse policy
than in so doing; for the discovery of caricature or falsity in my
representations, would not only invalidate the immediate statement,
but the whole book; and invalidate it in the most fatal way, by
showing that all I had ever said about "truth" was hypocrisy, and
that in my own affairs I expected to prevail by help of lies.
Nevertheless it necessarily happens, that in endeavors to facsimile
any work whatsoever, bad or good, some changes are induced from the
exact aspect of the original. These changes are, of course,
sometimes harmful, sometimes advantageous; the bad thing generally
gains; the good thing _always_ loses: so that I am continually
tormented by finding, in my plates of contrasts, the virtue and vice
I exactly wanted to talk about, eliminated from _both_ examples. In
some cases, however, the bad thing will lose also, and then I must
either cancel the plate, or increase the cost of the work by
preparing another (at a similar risk), or run the chance of
incurring the charge of dishonest representation. I desire,
therefore, very earnestly, and once for all, to have it understood
that whatever I say in the text, bearing on questions of comparison,
refers _always_ to the _original_ works; and that, if the reader has
it in his power, I would far rather he should look at those works
than at my plates of them; I only give the plates for his immediate
help and convenience: and I mention this, with respect to my plate
of Claude's ramification, because, if I have such a thing as a
prejudice at all, (and, although I do not myself think I have,
people certainly say so,) it is against Claude; and I might,
therefore, be sooner suspected of some malice in this plate than in
others. But I simply gave the original engravings from the Liber
Veritatis to Mr. Le Keux, earnestly requesting that the portions
selected might be faithfully copied; and I think he is much to be
thanked for so carefully and successfully accomplishing the task.
The figures are from the following plates:--

  No. 1. Part of the central tree in No. 134. of the Liber Veritatis.
      2. From the largest tree       "   158.
      3. Bushes at root of tree      "   134.
      4. Tree on the left            "   183.
      5. Tree on the left            "    95.
      6. Tree on the left            "    72.
      7. Principal tree              "    92.
      8. Tree on the right           "    32.

If, in fact, any change be effected in the examples in this plate, it
is for the better; for, thus detached, they all look like small
boughs, in which the faults are of little consequence; in the original
works they are seen to be intended for large trunks of trees, and the
errors are therefore pronounced on a much larger scale.

The plate of mediæval rocks (10.) has been executed with much less
attention in transcript, because the points there to be illustrated
were quite indisputable, and the instances were needed merely to show
the _kind_ of _thing_ spoken of, not the skill of particular masters.
The example from Leonardo was, however, somewhat carefully treated.
Mr. Cuff copied it accurately from the only engraving of the picture
which I believe exists, and with which, therefore, I suppose the world
is generally content. That engraving, however, in no respect seems to
me to give the look of the light behind Leonardo's rocks; so I
afterwards darkened the rocks, and put some light into the sky and
lily; and the effect is certainly more like that of the picture than
it is in the same portion of the old engraving.

Of the other masters represented in the plates of this volume, the
noblest, Tintoret, has assuredly suffered the most (Plate 17.);
first, in my too hasty drawing from the original, picture; and,
secondly, through some accidental errors of outline which occurred
in the reduction to the size of the page; lastly, and chiefly, in
the withdrawal of the heads of the four figures underneath, in the
shadow, on which the composition entirely depends. This last evil is
unavoidable. It is quite impossible to make _extracts_ from the
great masters without partly spoiling every separated feature; the
very essence of a noble composition being, that none should bear
separation from the rest.

The plate from Raphael (11) is, I think, on the whole, satisfactory.
It cost me much pains, as I had to facsimile the irregular form of
every leaf; each being, in the original picture, executed with a
somewhat wayward pencil-stroke of vivid brown on the clear sky.

Of the other plates it would be tedious to speak in detail.
Generally, it will be found that I have taken most pains to do
justice to the masters of whom I have to speak depreciatingly; and
that, if there be calumny at all, it is always of Turner, rather
than of Claude.

The reader might, however, perhaps suspect me of ill-will towards
Constable, owing to my continually introducing him for depreciatory
comparison. So far from this being the case, I had, as will be seen
in various passages of the first volume, considerable respect for
the feeling with which he worked; but I was compelled to do harsh
justice upon him now, because Mr. Leslie, in his unadvised and
unfortunate _réchauffé_ of the fallacious art-maxims of the last
century, has suffered his personal regard for Constable so far to
prevail over his judgment as to bring him forward as a great artist,
comparable in some kind with Turner. As Constable's reputation was,
even before this, most mischievous, in giving countenance to the
blotting and blundering of Modernism, I saw myself obliged, though
unwillingly, to carry the suggested comparison thoroughly out.


The reader must have noticed that I never speak of German art, or
German philosophy, but in depreciation. This, however, is not
because I cannot feel, or would not acknowledge, the value and
power, within certain limits, of both; but because I also feel that
the immediate tendency of the English mind is to rate them too
highly; and, therefore, it becomes a necessary task, at present, to
mark what evil and weakness there are in them, rather than what
good. I also am brought continually into collision with certain
extravagances of the German mind, by my own steady pursuit of
Naturalism as opposed to Idealism; and, therefore, I become
unfortunately cognizant of the evil, rather than of the good; which
evil, so far as I feel it, I am bound to declare. And it is not to
the point to protest, as the Chevalier Bunsen and other German
writers have done, against the expression of opinions respecting
their philosophy by persons who have not profoundly or carefully
studied it; for the very resolution to study any system of
metaphysics profoundly, must be based, in any prudent man's mind, on
some preconceived opinion of its worthiness to be studied; which
opinion of German metaphysics the naturalistic English cannot be led
to form. This is not to be murmured against,--it is in the simple
necessity of things. Men who have other business on their hands must
be content to choose what philosophy they have occasion for, by the
sample; and when, glancing into the second volume of "Hippolytus,"
we find the Chevalier Bunsen himself talking of a "finite
realization of the infinite" (a phrase considerably less rational
than "a black realization of white"), and of a triad composed of
God, Man, and Humanity[105] (which is a parallel thing to talking of
a triad composed of man, dog, and canineness), knowing those
expressions to be pure, definite, and highly finished nonsense, we
do not in general trouble ourselves to look any farther. Some one
will perhaps answer that if one always judged thus by the
sample,--as, for instance, if one judged of Turner's pictures by the
head of a figure cut out of one of them,--very precious things might
often be despised. Not, I think, often. If any one went to Turner,
expecting to learn figure-drawing from him, the sample of his
figure-drawing would accurately and justly inform him that he had
come to the wrong master. But if he came to be taught landscape, the
smallest fragment of Turner's work would justly exemplify his power.
It may sometimes unluckily happen that, in such short trial, we
strike upon an accidentally failing part of the thing to be tried,
and then we may be unjust; but there is, nevertheless, in multitudes
of cases, no other way of judging or acting; and the necessity of
occasionally being unjust is a law of life,--like that of sometimes
stumbling, or being sick. It will not do to walk at snail's pace all
our lives for fear of stumbling, nor to spend years in the
investigation of everything which, by specimen, we must condemn. He
who seizes all that he plainly discerns to be valuable, and never is
unjust but when he honestly cannot help it, will soon be enviable in
his possessions, and venerable in his equity.

Nor can I think that the risk of loss is great in the matter under
discussion. I have often been told that any one who will read Kant,
Strauss, and the rest of the German metaphysicians and divines,
resolutely through, and give his whole strength to the study of them,
will, after ten or twelve years' labor, discover that there is very
little harm in them; and this I can well believe; but I believe also
that the ten or twelve years may be better spent; and that any man who
honestly wants philosophy not for show, but for _use_, and knowing the
Proverbs of Solomon, can, by way of Commentary, afford to buy, in
convenient editions, Plato, Bacon, Wordsworth, Carlyle, and Helps,
will find that he has got as much as will be sufficient for him and
his household during life, and of as good quality as need be.

It is also often declared necessary to study the German
controversialists, because the grounds of religion "must be inquired
into." I am sorry to hear they have not been inquired into yet; but
if it be so, there are two ways of pursuing that inquiry: one for
scholarly men, who have leisure on their hands, by reading all that
they have time to read, for and against, and arming themselves at
all points for controversy with all persons; the other,--a shorter
and simpler way,--for busy and practical men, who want merely to
find out how to live and die. Now for the learned and leisurely men
I am not writing; they know what and how to read better than I can
tell them. For simple and busy men, concerned much with art, which
is eminently a practical matter, and fatigues the eyes, so as to
render much reading inexpedient, I _am_ writing; and such men I do,
to the utmost of my power, dissuade from meddling with German books;
not because I fear inquiry into the grounds of religion, but because
the only inquiry which is _possible_ to them must be conducted in a
totally different way. They have been brought up as Christians, and
doubt if they should remain Christians. They cannot ascertain, by
investigation, if the Bible be true; but _if it be_, and Christ ever
existed, and was God, then, certainly, the Sermon which He has
permitted for 1800 years to stand recorded as first of all His own
teaching in the New Testament, must be true. Let them take that
Sermon and give it fair practical trial: act out every verse of it,
with no quibbling or explaining away, except the reduction of such
_evidently_ metaphorical expressions as "cut off thy foot," "pluck
the beam out of thine eye," to their effectively practical sense.
Let them act out, or obey, every verse literally for a whole year,
so far as they can,--a year being little enough time to give to an
inquiry into religion; and if, at the end of the year, they are not
satisfied, and still need to prosecute the inquiry, let them try the
German system if they choose.


Some time after I had written the concluding chapter of this work,
the interesting and powerful poems of Emerson were brought under my
notice by one of the members of my class at the Working Men's
College. There is much in some of these poems so like parts of the
chapter in question, even in turn of expression, that though I do
not usually care to justify myself from the charge of plagiarism, I
felt that a few words were necessary in this instance.

I do not, as aforesaid, justify myself, in general, because I know
there is internal evidence in my work of its originality, if people
care to examine it; and if they do not, or have not skill enough to
know genuine from borrowed work, my simple assertion would not
convince them, especially as the charge of plagiarism is hardly ever
made but by plagiarists, and persons of the unhappy class who do not
believe in honesty but on evidence. Nevertheless, as my work is so
much out of doors, and among pictures, that I have time to read few
modern books, and am therefore in more danger than most people of
repeating, as if it were new, what others have said, it may be well
to note, once for all, that any such apparent plagiarism results in
fact from my writings being more original than I wish them to be,
from my having worked out my whole subject in unavoidable, but to
myself hurtful, ignorance of the labors of others. On the other
hand, I should be very sorry if I had _not_ been continually taught
and influenced by the writers whom I love; and am quite unable to
say to what extent my thoughts have been guided by Wordsworth,
Carlyle, and Helps; to whom (with Dante and George Herbert, in olden
time) I owe more than to any other writers;--most of all, perhaps,
to Carlyle, whom I read so constantly, that, without wilfully
setting myself to imitate him, I find myself perpetually falling
into his modes of expression, and saying many things in a "quite
other," and, I hope, stronger, way, than I should have adopted some
years ago; as also there are things which I hope are said more
clearly and simply than before, owing to the influence upon me of
the beautiful _quiet_ English of Helps. It would be both foolish and
wrong to struggle to cast off influences of this kind; for they
consist mainly in a real and healthy help;--the master, in writing
as in painting, showing certain methods of language which it would
be ridiculous, and even affected, not to employ, when once shown;
just as it would have been ridiculous in Bonifacio to refuse to
employ Titian's way of laying on color, if he felt it the best,
because he had not himself discovered it. There is all the
difference in the world between this receiving of guidance, or
allowing of influence, and wilful imitation, much more, plagiarism;
nay, the guidance may even innocently reach into local tones of
thought, and must do so to some extent; so that I find Carlyle's
stronger thinking coloring mine continually; and should be very
sorry if I did not; otherwise I should have read him to little
purpose. But what I have of my own is still all there, and, I
believe, better brought out, by far, than it would have been
otherwise. Thus, if we glance over the wit and satire of the popular
writers of the day, we shall find that the _manner_ of it, so far as
it is distinctive, is always owing to Dickens; and that out of his
first exquisite ironies branched innumerable other forms of wit,
varying with the disposition of the writers; original in the matter
and substance of them, yet never to have been expressed as they now
are, but for Dickens.

Many people will suppose that for several ideas in the chapters on
Landscape I was indebted to Humboldt's Kosmos, and Howitt's Rural
Scenery. I am indebted to Mr. Howitt's book for much pleasure, but
for no suggestion, as it was not put into my hands till the chapters
in question were in type. I wish it had been; as I should have been
glad to have taken farther note on the landscape of Theocritus, on
which Mr. Howitt dwells with just delight. Other parts of the book
will be found very suggestive and helpful to the reader who cares to
pursue the subject. Of Humboldt's Kosmos I heard much talk when it
first came out, and looked through it cursorily; but thinking it
contained no material (connected with my subject)[106] which I had
not already possessed myself of, I have never since referred to the
work. I may be mistaken in my estimate of it, but certainly owe it
absolutely nothing.

It is also often said that I borrow from Pugin. I glanced at Pugin's
Contrasts once, in the Oxford architectural reading-room, during an
idle forenoon. His "Remarks on Articles in the Rambler" were brought
under my notice by some of the reviews. I never read a word of any
other of his works, not feeling, from the style of his architecture,
the smallest interest in his opinions.

I have so often spoken, in the preceding pages, of Holman Hunt's
picture of the Light of the World, that I may as well, in this
place, glance at the envious charge against it, of being plagiarized
from a German print.

It is indeed true that there was a painting of the subject before;
and there were, of course, no paintings of the Nativity before
Raphael's time, nor of the Last Supper before Leonardo's, else those
masters could have laid no claim to originality. But what was still
more singular (the verse to be illustrated being, "Behold, I stand
at the door and knock"), the principal figure in the antecedent
picture was knocking at a door, knocked with its right hand, and had
its face turned to the spectator! Nay, it was even robed in a long
robe, down to its feet. All these circumstances were the same in Mr.
Hunt's picture; and as the chances evidently were a hundred to one
that if he had not been helped to the ideas by the German artist, he
would have represented the figure as _not_ knocking at any door, as
turning its back to the spectator, and as dressed in a short robe,
the plagiarism was considered as demonstrated. Of course no defence
is possible in such a case. All I can say is, that I shall be
sincerely grateful to any unconscientious persons who will adapt a
few more German prints in the same manner.

Finally, touching plagiarism in general, it is to be remembered that
all men who have sense and feeling are being continually helped:
they are taught by every person whom they meet, and enriched by
everything that falls in their way. The greatest is he who has been
oftenest aided; and, if the attainments of all human minds could be
traced to their real sources, it would be found that the world had
been laid most under contribution by the men of most original power,
and that every day of their existence deepened their debt to their
race, while it enlarged their gifts to it. The labor devoted to
trace the origin of any thought, or any invention, will usually
issue in the blank conclusion that there is nothing new under the
sun; yet nothing that is truly great can ever be altogether
borrowed; and he is commonly the wisest, and is always the happiest,
who receives simply, and without envious question, whatever good is
offered him, with thanks to its immediate giver.

  [105] I am truly sorry to have introduced such words in an
        apparently irreverent way. But it would be a guilty
        reverence which prevented us from exposing fallacy,
        precisely where fallacy was most dangerous, and shrank from
        unveiling an error, just because that error existed in
        parlance respecting the most solemn subjects to which it
        could possibly be attached.

  [106] See the Fourth Volume.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

           Transcriber's Notes (continued from top of text):

  Typographical changes to the original work are as follows:

  Minor punctuation changes have been made without annotation.

  pg 242 paus/pause: Matilda pause where ...
  pg 277 charater/character: the character of this ...
  pg 330 cloads/clouds: clouds of rage ...

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