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ty was designed to be rendered active, we must further suppose that its exercise was designed to promote some useful purpose. And such, although it has sometimes been perverted, has been the general result.
Nowhere is the power of imagination seen to better advantage than in the Prophets of the Old Testament. If it be said that those venerable writers were inspired, it will still remain true that this was the faculty of the mind which inspiration especially honoured by the use which was made of it. And how many monuments may every civilized nation boast of, in painting, architecture, and sculpture, as well as in poetry, where the imagination, in contributing to the national glory, has at the same time contributed to the national happiness! Many an hour it has beguiled by the new situations it has devicted and the new views of human nature it has disclosed ; many a pang of the heart it has subdued, either by introducing us to greater woes which others have suffered, or by intoxicating the memory with its luxuriance, and lulling it into a forgetfulness of ourselves; many a good resolution it has cherished, and subtending, as it were, a new and wider horizon around the intellectual being, has filled the soul with higher conceptions and inspired it with higher hopes. Conscious of its immortal destiny, and struggling against the bounds that limit it, the soul enters with joy into those new and lofty creations which it is the prerogative of the imagination to form; and they seem to it a congenial residence. Such are the views which obviously present themselves on the slightest consideration of this subject; and it is not strange, therefore, that we find in the writings of no less a judge than Addison, some remarks to this effect, that a refined imagination “ gives a man a kind of property in everything he sees, and makes the most rude, uncultivated parts of nature administer to his pleasures; so that he looks upon the world, as it were, in another light, and discovers in it a multitude of charms that conceal themselves from the generality of mankind.”
$ 3.8. Works of imagination give different degrees of pleasure. Disposed as we are, however, to maintain the high
rank of the imagination as compared with other powers of the mind, and not only its high rank, but its utility. we do not deny that different persons experience different degrees of pleasure from that source. Poetry, foi instance, is one of the results of the imagination; and although it is generally regarded as a highly pleasing as well as useful art, we nevertheless find that all persons do not possess the same relish for its beauties. But the fault does not appear to be so much in the art, or the powers of imagination which give existence to the art, as in those to whom it is addressed. The pleasure which is felt by a reader of poetry (and similar remarks will apply to other efforts of the imagination) will in general depend upon two circumstances: (1.) the liveliness of his own imagination; (2.) the conformity of his experience to the things described.
The pleasure which is felt by a reader of poetry will depend in part, in the first place, on the liveliness of his own imagination.--In poems the different parts are only imperfectly filled up; some describe more minutely than others; but the most minute describers only trace the or lines. These remain, therefore, to be filled up by the reader. But the ability to do this is found in very different degrees in different persons; some very rapidly and admirably finish the picture, and others do not. The latter, consequently, remain in a considerable degree unaffected, and perhaps condemn the poem as deficient in interest; while the former read it with great feeling and pleasure.
The pleasure will depend, in the second place, on the conformity of the reader's experience to the things described. "If the scene of the poem is laid in the country, and deals exclusively in the toils, and sorrows, and joys of country life, it would not be unreasonable to anticipate that it might not excite any decided interest in those who never had any actual experience of that kind. It will probably be conceded that few poems, and perhaps none, have met with a more favourable reception, and have touched more deeply the universal sensibility, than the Cotter's Saturday Night of Burns. It is certainly a most admirable picture of domestic life, such as may sometimes be found among a poor and virtuous peasantry, with its little touching incidents of joy, and hope, and grief, of friendship and religious faith. It can hardly fail to be pleasing to all, but how much more so to those who had their birth and were brought up in the cottages of Scotland; who trod in early life her rugged hills, and mingled in the rural toils of her peasantry; and in whose bosoms every incident of the poem awakens some affecting recollections. Burns himself was by no means ignorant of the additional pleasure which arises under these circumstances. “He was passionately fond,” says Dugald Stewart, “ of the beauties of nature; and I recollect once he told me, when I was admiring a distant prospect in one of our morning walks, that the sight of so many smoking cottages gave a pleasure to his mind, which none could understand who had not witnessed, like himself, the happiness and the worth which they contained."* -While, therefore, we do not hesitate to assert the util. ity of the imagination and the adaptedness of its more successful creations to give a high degree of pleasure, we do not suppose, for the reasons mentioned in this section and for others which might be mentioned, that these views will answer equally well to the experience, or commend themselves equally to the judgment of all. § 317. Importance of the imagination in connexion with reasoning.
In remarking on the subject of the utility of the imagination, there is one important point of view in which it is capable of being considered; that of the relation of the imagination to the other intellectual powers. And, among other things, there is obviously ground for the remark, that a vigorous and well-disciplined imagination may be made subservient to promptness, and clearness, and success in reasoning. The remark is made, it will be noticed, on the supposition of the imagination being well disciplined, which implies that it is under suitable control ; otherwise it will rather encumber and perplex than afford aid.
Take, for instance, two persons, one of whom has cul Livated the reasoning power, exclusive of the imagination. We will suppose him to possess very deservedly the reputation of an able and weighty dialectician ; but it will be obvious to the slightest observation, that there is, in one respect, a defect and failure ; there is an evident want of selection and vivacity in the details of his argument. He cannot readily appreciate the relation which the hearer's mind sustains to the facts which he wishes to present; and, accordingly, with much expense of patience on their part, he laboriously and very scrupulously takes up and examines everything which can come within his grasp, and bestows upon everything nearly an equal share of attention. And hence it is, that many persons who are acknowledged to be learned, diligent, and even successful in argument, at the same time sustain the reputation, which is by no means an enviable one, of being dull, tiresome, and uninteresting.
* See the letter of Mr. Stewart in Currie's Life of Burns,
Let us now look a moment at another person, who is not only a man of great powers of ratiocination, but has cultivated his imagination, and has it under prompt and judicious command. He casts his eye rapidly over the whole field of argument, however extensive it may be, and immediately perceives what facts are necessary to be stated and what are not; what are of prominent, and what of subordinate importance; what will be easily understood and possess an interest, and what will be difficult to be appreciated, and will also lose its due value from a want of attraction. And he does this on the same principle, and in virtue of the same mental training, which enables the painter, architect, sculptor, and poet to present the outlines of grand and beautiful creations in their respective arts. There is a suitableness in the different parts of the train of reasoning; a correspondence of one part to another; a great and combined effect, enhanced by, every suitable decoration, and undiminished by any misplaced excrescence, which undoubtedly implies a perfection of the imagination, in some degree kindred with that which projected the group of the Laocoon, crowned the hills of Greece with statues and temples, and lives in the works of renowned poets. The debater who combines the highest results of reasoning with the highest results of the imagination, throws the
light of his own splendid conceptions around the radi. ance of truth; so that brightness shines in the midst of brightness, like the angel of the Apocalypse in the sun.
0 318. Of mieconceptions by means of the imagination. But while it is safe to admit that the imagination may be made subservient to valuable purposes, it is no less true that it may sometimes mislead us. The following are instances, among others, where this is the result.
Our admiration of the great may be reckoned a prejudice of the imaginati n. We are apt to suppose them possessed of personal attractions, and of the highest happiness; and not only this, to invest them with every worthy moral attribute.“ The misfortunes," says a late writer, “ of Mary Queen of Scots, and of her descendant, Prince Charles Edward, commanded the sympathy, the love, and the enthusiasm of millions. In the cause of these princes, how many have joyfully sacrificed life, though neither of them was worthy or capable of reigning! How many labour still to blot out every stain from their memory! 'And yet every individual, in the circle
, of his own private friends and acquaintances, can undoubtedly find many persons more distinguished for virtue, for good principles, for integrity of character, than the prince for whom he is willing to lay down his life; but a friend, a private man, is invested with none of those attributes, always dazzling but often false, which are calculated to strike the imagination."
Our imaginations mislead us also in respect to war, whenever we contemplate it at a distance, and do not feel its effects at our own firesides and homes. We delight to dwell upon the idea of mighty power which it suggests; we recall to memory the homage and plaudits which have been given to the brave; we combine together conceptions of all that is stirring in music and brillian: in equipage. In a word, it is a kindling imagination, seizing upon some imposing circumstances, that leads piultitudes into deplorable mistakes as to the character of that great scourge of the human race.-Again : the power of imagina'ion often gives a wrong colouring to future life. It is here as in some prospects in natural scenery,