« VorigeDoorgaan »
HOME OF A GREAT PAINTER
walked her knights; the low bronzed gleaming of sea-rusted armour shot angrily under their blood-red mantle-folds. Fearless, faithful, patient, impenetrable, implacable—every word a fatesate her senate. In hope and honour, lulled by flowing of wave around their isles of sacred sand, each with his name written and the cross graved at his side, lay her dead. A wonderful piece of world. Rather, itself a world. It lay along the face of the waters, no larger, as its captains saw it from their masts at evening, than a bar of sunset that could not pass away ; but for its power, it must have seemed to them as if they were sailing in the expanse of heaven, and this a great planet, whose orient edge widened through ether. A world from which all ignoble care and petty thoughts were banished, with all the common and poor elements of life. No foulness, nor tumult, in those tremulous streets, that filled, or fell, beneath the moon; but rippled music of majestic change, or thrilling silence. No weak walls could rise above them; no lowroofed cottage, nor straw-built shed. Only the strength as of rock, and the finished setting of stones most precious. And around them, far as the eye could reach, still the soft moving of stainless waters, proudly pure; as not the flower, so neither the thorn nor the thistle, could grow in the glancing fields. Ethereal strength of Alps, dream-like, vanishing in high procession beyond the Torcellan shore ; blue islands of Paduan hills, poised in the golden west. Above, free winds and fiery clouds ranging at their will ;-brightness out of the north, and balm from the south, and the stars of the evening and morning clear in the limitless light of arched heaven and circling sea. Such was Giorgione's school-such Titian's home!
PRIDE OF KNOWLEDGE.
THERE is nothing of which man has any right to be proud; but the very last thing of which, with any shadow of reason, he can make his boast is his knowledge, except only that infinitely small portion of it which he has discovered for himself. For what is there to be more proud of in receiving a piece of knowledge from another person, than in receiving a piece of money? Beggars should not be proud, whatever kind of alms they receive. Knowledge is like current coin. A man may have some right to be proud of possessing it, if he has worked for the gold of it, and assayed it, and stamped it, so that it may be received of all men as true; or earned it fairly, being already assayed: but if he has done none of these things, but only had it thrown in his face by a passer-by, what cause has he to be proud ? And though, in this mendicant fashion, he had heaped together the wealth of Croesus, would pride any more, for this, become him, as, in some sort, it becomes the man who has laboured for his fortune, however small ? So, if a man tells me the sun is larger than the earth, have I any cause for pride in knowing it ? or, if any multitude of men tell me any number of things, heaping all their wealth of knowledge upon me, have I any reason to feel proud under the heap? And is not nearly all the knowledge of which we boast in these days cast upon us in this dishonourable way; worked for by other men, prosed by them, and then forced upon us, even against our wills, and beaten into us in our youth, before we have the wit even to know if it be good or not? (Mark the distinction between knowledge and thought). Truly a noble possession to be proud of! Be assured, there is no part of the furniture of a man's mind which he has a right to exult in, but that which he has hewn and fashioned for himself. He who has built himself a hut on a desert heath, and carved his bed, and table, and chair out of the nearest forest, may have some right to take pride in the appliances of his narrow chamber, as assuredly he will have joy in them. But the man who has had a palace built, and adorned, and furnished for him, may, indeed, have many advantages above the other, but he has no reason to be proud of his upholsterer's skill; and it is ten to one if he has half the joy in his couches of ivory that the other will have in his pallet of pine.
SUBJECTS FOR ARCHITECTURAL ORNAMENT.
CONSIDER what a field is opened to your fancy merely in the subject matter which architecture admits. Nearly every other art is severely limited in its subjects :—the landscape painter, for instance, gets little help from the aspects of beautiful humanity ; the historical painter, less, perhaps, than he ought, from the
SUBJECTS FOR ARCHITECTURAL ORNAMENT.
that you may
accidents of wild nature ; and the pure sculptor, still less, from the minor details of common life. But is there anything within range of sight, or conception, which may not be of use to you, or in which your interest may not be excited with advantage to your art? From visions of angels, down to the least important gesture of a child at play, whatever may be conceived of Divine, or beheld of Human, may be dared or adopted by you; throughout the kingdom of animal life, no creature is so vast, or so minute, that you cannot deal with it, or bring it into service; the lion and the crocodile will couch about your shafts; the moth and the bee will sun themselves upon your flowers; for you, the fawn will leap; for you, the snail be slow; for you, the dove smooth her bosom, and the hawk spread her wings towards the south. All the wide world of vegetation blooms and bends for you; the leaves tremble
bid them be still under the marble snow; the thorn and the thistle, which the earth casts forth as evil, are to you the kindliest servants ; no dying petal, nor drooping tendril, is so feeble as to have no help for you; no robed pride of blossom so kingly, but it will lay aside its purple to receive at your hands the pale immortality. Is there anything in common life too mean,— in common things too trivial,—to be ennobled by your touch ? As there is nothing in life, so there is nothing in lifelessness which has not its lesson for you, or its gift; and when you are tired of watching the strength of the plume, and the tenderness of the leaf, you may walk down to your rough river-shore, or into the thickest markets of your thoroughfares; and there is not a piece of torn cable that will not twine into a perfect moulding; there is not a fragment of castaway matting, or shattered basket-work, that will not work into a chequer or a capital. Yes : and if you gather up the very sand, and break the stone on which you tread, among its fragments of all but invisible shells you will find forms that will take their place, and that proudly, among the starred traceries of your vaulting ; and you, who can crown the mountain with its fortress, and the city with its towers, are thus able also to give beauty to ashes, and worthiness to dust.
ALLEGORY ON CRITICISM.
CRITICISM was the eldest daughter of Labour and of Truth : she was, at her birth, committed to the care of Justice, and brought up by her in the palace of Wisdom. Being soon distinguished by the celestials for her uncommon qualities, she was appointed the governess of Fancy, and empowered to beat time to the chorus of the Muses when they sang before the throne of Jupiter.
When the Muses condescended to visit this lower world, they came accompanied by Criticism, to whom, upon her descent from her native regions, Justice gave a sceptre, to be carried aloft in her right hand-one end of which was tinctured with ambrosia, and inwreathed with a golden foliage of amaranths and bays; the other end was encircled with cypress and poppies, and dipped in the waters of Oblivion. In her left hand she bore an unextinguishable torch, manufactured by Labour, and lighted by Truth, of which it was the particular quality immediately to show everything in its true form, however it might be disguised to common eyes. Whatever Art could complicate, or Folly could confound, was, upon the first gleam of the torch of Truth, exhibited in its distinct parts and original simplicity; it darted through the labyrinths of sophistry, and showed at once all the absurdities to which they served for refuge; it pierced through the robes which Rhetoric often sold to Falsehood, and detected the disproportion of parts, which artificial veils had been contrived to cover.
Thus furnished for the execution of her office, Criticism came down to survey the performances of those who professed themselves the votaries of the Muses. Whatever was brought before her, she beheld by the steady light of the torch of Truth ; and when her examination had convinced her that the laws of just writing had been observed, she touched it with the amaranthine end of the sceptre, and consigned it over to immortality.
But it more frequently happened that, in the works which required her inspection, there was some imposture attempted ; that false colours were laboriously laid ; that some secret inequality was found between the words and sentiments, or some dissimilitude of the ideas and the original objects; that incongruities were linked together, or that some parts were of no use but to enlarge the appearance of the whole, without contributing to its beauty, solidity, or usefulness.
ALLEGORY ON CRITICISM.
Wherever such discoveries were made—and they were made whenever these faults were committed,-Criticism rofused the touch which conferred the sanction of immortality; and, when the errors were frequent and gross, reversed the sceptre, and let the drops of Lethe distil from the poppies and cypress a fatal mildew, which immediately began to waste the work away, till it was at last totally destroyed.
There were some compositions brought to the test. in which, when the strongest light was thrown upon them, their beauties, and faults appeared so equally mingled, that Criticism stood with. her sceptre poised in her hand, in doubt whether to shed Lethe or ambrosia upon them. These at last increased to so great a number, that she was weary of attending such doubtful claims; and, for fear of using improperly the sceptre of Justice, referred the cause to be considered by Time.
The proceedings of Time, though very dilatory, were, some few caprices excepted, conformable to justice : and many, who thought themselves secure by a short forbearance, have sunk under his scythe, as they were posting down with their volumes in triumph to futurity. It was observable that some were destroyed by little and little, and others crushed for ever by a single blow.
Criticism having long kept her eye fixed steadily upon Time, was at last sowell satisfied with his conduct, that she withdrew from the earth with her patroness Astrea, and left Prejudice and False Taste to ravage at large as the associates of Fraud and Mischief; contenting herself thenceforth to shed her influence from afar upon some select minds, fitted for its reception by learning and by virtue.
Before her departure she broke her sceptre, of which the shivers that formed the ambrosial end were caught up by Flattery, and those that had been infected with the waters of Lethe were, with equal haste, seized by Malevolence. The followers of Flattery, to whom she distributed her part of the sceptre, neither had nor desired light, but touched indiscriminately whatever Power or Interest happened to exhibit. The companions of Malevolence were supplied by the Furies with a torch, which had this quality peculiar to infernal lustre, that its light fell only upon faults.
No light, but rather darkness visible,
With these fragments of authority, the slaves of Flattery and Malevolence marched out, at the command of their mistresses, to