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The Continental Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 5, November, 1863 online

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he crowns the bride with white roses, orange buds, or snowy myrtle
wreaths, to typify that innocence and chastity are essential to a love
that is to last as long as life endures. He wreathes the redeemed with
undying amaranth, unfading palms, to symbolize that their meek triumph
is for eternity; while he places in the hands of the angels the
sculptured chalice of the snowy lily, with its breath of incense and
stamens of molten gold, as an imperfect type of the perfect purity,
sweet peace, and glorious golden splendor of the Heavenly City.

The pages of the poets are full of beautiful lessons and tender
illustrations drawn from the fragile flowers. We cite Lowell's lines to
one of our most common flowers:


TO THE DANDELION.

Dear common flower that grow'st beside the way,
Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold,
First pledge of blithesome May,
Which children pluck, and, full of pride, uphold,
High-hearted buccaneers, o'erjoyed that they
An Eldorado in the grass have found,
Which not the rich earth's ample round
May match in wealth - thou art more dear to me
Than all the prouder summer blooms may be.

Gold such as thine ne'er drew the Spanish prow
Through the primeval hush of Indian seas,
Nor wrinkled the lean brow
Of age, to rob the lover's heart of ease;
'Tis the spring's largess, which she scatters now
To rich and poor alike with lavish hand,
Though most hearts never understand
To take it at God's value, but pass by
The offered wealth with unrewarded eye.

Thou art my tropics and mine Italy;
To look at thee unlocks a warmer clime;
The eyes thou givest me
Are in the heart, and heed not space or time:
Not in mid June the golden-cuirassed bee
Feels a more summer-like warm ravishment
In the white Lily's breezy tent,
His fragrant Sybaris, than I, when first
From the dark green thy yellow circles burst.

Then think I of deep shadows on the grass, -
Of meadows where in sun the cattle graze,
Where, as the breezes pass,
The gleaming rushes lean a thousand ways, -
Of leaves that slumber in a cloudy mass,
Or whiten in the wind, - of waters blue
That from the distance sparkle through
Some woodland gap, - and of a sky above
Where one white cloud like a stray lamb doth move.

My childhood's earliest thoughts are linked with thee;
The sight of thee calls back the Robin's song
Who, from the dark old tree
Beside the door, sang clearly all day long,
And I, secure in childish piety,
Listened as if I heard an angel sing
With news from heaven, which he could bring
Fresh every day to my untainted ears,
When birds and flowers and I were happy peers.

How like a prodigal doth nature seem
When thou, with all thy gold, so common art!
Thou teachest me to deem
More sacredly of every human heart,
Since each reflects in joy its scanty gleam
Of heaven, and could some wondrous secret show,
Did we but pay the love we owe,
And with a child's undoubting wisdom look
On all these living pages of God's book.

Wordsworth's 'Daisy' is very beautiful, and full of moral lessons:

In youth, from rock to rock I went,
From hill to hill, in discontent
Of pleasure high and turbulent,
Most pleased when most uneasy;
But now my own delights I make, -
My thirst at every rill can slake,
And gladly nature's love partake
Of thee, sweet Daisy!

When winter decks his few gray hairs,
Thee in the scanty wreath he wears;
Spring parts the clouds with softest airs,
That she may sun thee;
Whole summer fields are thine by right;
And Autumn, melancholy wight!
Doth in thy crimson head delight
When rains are on thee.

In shoals and bands, a morrice train,
Thou greet'st the traveller in the lane;
If welcome once, thou count'st it gain;
Thou art not daunted,
Nor car'st if thou be set at nought:
And oft alone in nooks remote
We meet thee, like a pleasant thought,
When such are wanted.

Be violets in their secret mews
The flowers the wanton Zephyrs choose;
Proud be the Rose, with rains and dews
Her head impearling;
Thou liv'st with less ambitious aim,
Yet hast not gone without thy fame;
Thou art indeed by many a claim
The Poet's darling.

If to a rock from rains he fly,
Or, some bright day of April sky,
Imprisoned by hot sunshine, lie
Near the green holly,
And wearily at length should fare;
He needs but look about, and there
Thou art: a friend at hand, to scare
His melancholy.

A hundred times, by rock or bower,
Ere thus I have lain couched an hour,
Have I derived from thy sweet power
Some apprehension;
Some steady love, some brief delight;
Some memory that had taken flight;
Some chime of fancy wrong or right,
Or stray invention.

If stately passions in me burn,
And one chance look to thee should turn,
I drink out of an humbler urn
A lowlier pleasure;
The homely sympathy that heeds
The common life our nature breeds;
A wisdom fitted to the needs
Of hearts at leisure.

Sweet flower! for by that name at last,
When all my reveries are past,
I call thee, and to that cleave fast,
Sweet, silent creature!
That breath'st with me in sun and air,
Do thou, as thou wert wont, repair
My heart with gladness and a share
Of thy meek nature!

With still deeper poetic feeling has that untutored bard of nature, poor
Burns, written of this little flower:


TO A MOUNTAIN DAISY,

_On turning one down with the plough, in April, 1786._

Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flow'r,
Thou's met me in an evil hour;
For I maun crush amang the stoure
Thy slender stem;
To spare thee now is past my power,
Thou bonnie gem!

Alas! it's no thy neebor sweet,
The bonnie Lark, companion meet,
Bending thee 'mang the dewy weet,
Wi' speckl'd breast,
When upward springing, blithe, to greet
The purpling east.

Cauld blew the bitter biting north
Upon thy early, humble birth;
Yet cheerfully thou glinted forth
Amid the storm
Scarce reared above the parent earth
Thy tender form.

The flaunting flowers our gardens yield,
High sheltering woods and wa's maun shield
But thou, beneath the random bield
O' clod or stane,
Adorns the histie stibble field,
Unseen, alane!

There, in thy scanty mantle clad,
Thy snawie bosom sun-ward spread,
Thou lifts thy unassuming head,
In humble guise;
But now the share uptears thy bed,
And low thou lies!

Such is the fate of artless Maid,
Sweet floweret of the rural shade!
By love's simplicity betrayed,
And guileless trust,
Till she, like thee, all soiled, is laid
Low i' the dust.

Such is the fate of simple Bard,
On life's rough ocean; luckless starr'd,
Unskilful he to note the card
Of prudent lore,
Till billows rage, and gales blow hard,
And whelm him o'er!

Such fate to suffering worth is given,
Who long with wants and woes has striven,
By human pride or cunning driven
To mis'ry's brink,
Till, wrench'd of every stay but Heaven,
He, ruin'd, sink!

Ev'n thou who mourn'st the Daisy's fate,
That fate is thine - no distant date:
Stern Ruin's ploughshare drives, elate,
Full on thy bloom,
Till crushed beneath the furrow's weight
Shall be thy doom!

With our hearts full of love and tender sympathy with the author of this
exquisite poem, let us now look among the botanists for a description of
the Daisy. We will find: 'Perenuius (Daisy, E.W. & P. 21), leaves
obovate, crenate; scape naked, 1 flowered; or, Leucanthemum (Ox-eyed
Daisy), leaves clasping, lanceolate, serrate, cut-toothed at the base;
stem erect, branching.' (See Eaton's Botany.)

All honor to the savant! Untiring in his investigations, ardent in his
researches, the men of the senses are scarcely worthy to untie the
latchet of his shoe, but he is slow in acknowledging the _science of
art_, and apt to look down upon the artist from his throne of power!
Because the artist deals with a different order of truths, unseen and
belonging principally to the world of feeling, the savant rarely does
justice to the intense study requisite for the mastery of the mere form
of art; the long, unrequited, and patient toil requisite for its
practice, or the soaring and loving genius required to fill the form
when mastered with glowing life. All honor to the savant! but let him
not fail to acknowledge the artist-brother at his side, who labors on
for humanity with no hope of learned professorships to crown his career,
nor venerable diplomas to assure him of social honor and position. Let
him not be regarded as an idler by the wayside, nor let 'La Bohème' be
any longer considered as his especial type and insignia! The useful and
the beautiful should stand banded in the closest fellowship, since Truth
must be the soul of both! Honor then the pure artist, while he still
lives, nor keep the laurel only for his tomb!

In order to examine scientifically, the mind is generally forced to
consider its object as deprived of life; indeed, the functions of living
creatures cannot be fully analyzed without being first deprived of life.
Science gives us its subject with the most rigorous exactitude, with the
most scrupulous fidelity; but, alas! often without that magical kindler
of love and sympathy, life. Art gives us its subject with vivid
coloring, motion, palpitating life - often, indeed, by associative moral
symbolism adding a still higher life to simple being, filling it, as in
Burns's lines to the Daisy, with a purer flame.

Science daguerreotypes, art paints its objects. Science is necessarily
abstract, discrete; art necessarily concrete. So true is this, that when
art begins to decline, it manifests a tendency to pass from the concrete
to the discrete, abstract; it becomes self-conscious, reflective,
scientific. Body, form, is mistaken for soul, spirit. A discrete idea
fails to move us, because it gives us only _successively_ the relations
subsisting between it and the First Cause, as its facts must be
isolated, its elements decomposed, and presented to us in an inverse
order to that in which they reveal themselves to the mind in the
spontaneous and natural use of its powers. Science never appeals to our
emotional faculties spontaneously; when it does speak to the heart, it
is because the mind, linking together the successive ideas given by
science, at last seizes upon the UNITY of the whole, supplying by its
own conceptions the voids of science. When the savant possesses the
creative power in a high degree, as did Kepler, he becomes prophet and
artist. The concrete ideas of art appeal immediately to our feelings;
emotions excited by them are spontaneous, because they aim at presenting
their objects in all the splendor of their _living_ light. Only life
produces life; all our emotions and sympathies pertain to the suffering,
the acting, the living - and thus an artistic conception appeals to our
entire being. What psychological analysis of youthful and feminine
loveliness could move us as a Juliet?

Analysis and reflection suppose the suspension of spontaneity, that is,
of the free activity of the soul. Spontaneity and reflection are the two
modes in which the spirit manifests its activity. Spontaneity is the
living power which it possesses of acting without premeditation, without
contingent ideas, of being influenced or determined by some power from
without, the action thus produced blending the two primary elements of
feeling and thought. This is the distinctive mode of woman's being.
Reflection is that operation of the mind by which it turns its gaze in
upon itself, and considers its own operations; it compares, analyzes,
and constructs logical processes of thought. This is as natural to man,
as spontaneity to woman. Now both of these modes are essentially
necessary to the well-being of the individual, the one is the complement
of the other; the cultivation of the one should never be sacrificed to
that of the other. Teach woman to reason; develop spontaneity in man.
But as the whole course of our education is solely addressed to the
reflective faculties, intended chiefly for their culture, how is
spontaneity to be developed? Certainly not through abstract science; for
it, with its formulas, occupied only with contingent and relative ideas,
addressing itself solely to the faculties concerned with the elaboration
of the relative, that is, to the reflective faculties - how can it avail
for the cultivation of spontaneity? It can be cultivated only through
the due direction of the emotional nature; but how is that to be
approached? In the first place through the joys and sorrows, the events
of daily life; a training of such importance that the Great Creator, for
the most part, retains it in His own hands: humanly speaking, only
through the arts, which contain, at the same time, the scientific form
of the finite, and the blissful intuition of the Infinite. As wisdom and
love mark the works of the Creator, so thought and feeling meet in the
creations of the artist, in the arts - but thought alone is concerned
with the formulas of science. Now, if spontaneity be more conducive to
man's happiness than reflection, then poetry, literature, and the arts
are of more importance to him than abstract science. If, in appealing to
spontaneous emotions, they give the legitimate influence to the heart
which it should possess, because under their influence thought and
feeling move in the proper _unity_ of their divinely linked being, then
must pure, creative, loving, and devout art at last take its rank, when
spontaneity shall be regarded as the generatrix of reflection, above the
cold and haughty pile reared by the reflective faculties alone, abstract
science.

The aspirations of man constantly sigh for the limitless; his soul
contains depths which his reason cannot fathom. How rapidly his surging
ideas come and go! What flashes of supernatural light - what fearful
obscurity! Heaven and Hell war in his soul! Strange visions traverse his
intellect, throwing their lurid light into the vague depths of his
heart. His power to love and feel seems boundless - his power to know
almost at zero. What can he predicate even of himself, with his
boundless desires for he knows not what - his fleeting emotions and
insatiable wishes! Ah! if the language of poetry, of music, of the
arts, came not to gift these passing images with external life, to fix
them in the wildered consciousness, they would surge away almost
unmarked, like lovely dreams, scarcely leaving their dim traces in the
memory. For, with the generality of common minds, the actual is death to
the ideal! But art speaks; spontaneity is justified; our inner being, so
vague before, stands revealed before us; the beautiful must be the true,
the chaos of the moral world is dispelled; we were created to _enjoy_
the attributes of God, which, finitely manifested, are Truth and Beauty;
and His light moves over the perturbed chaos of our dim being! What can
abstract science, with its cold and finite language, do for a soul
athirst for an infinite happiness? Nothing, unless its first postulate
be God! Young people, generally, and women, in whom the love of Beauty
is strongly developed, have almost a repulsion to the study of science.
Wherefore? Because it often seems to exile God from His own creation.
Let Him desert Paradise, and it becomes at once a desert. The Infinite
is the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley! Besides, the
reflective reasoning faculties awaken late with those in whom the
intuitive faculties and sensibilities attain an early development. Let
woman not despair. What use will there be for the reflective reason,
when 'we shall know even as we are known,' and the vision in God shall
make the spontaneous bliss of immortality?

The habit of only seeing, only studying, only analyzing the finite, is
very apt to inspire the savant with a peculiar distrust of all
spontaneous emotion. Ceasing to open his heart to that light from the
Absolute, which ought to quicken it into bloom, it learns to dwell only
in the sterile world of abstract formulas. If he could find algebraic
signs for its expression, he would willingly believe in the immortality
of the soul: the characters which he can never learn to comprehend, are
precisely those in which dwell the intuitions of the infinite. He piques
himself upon the precision of his language, not perceiving it has gained
this boasted prim exactitude at the expense of breadth and depth. All
honor to the savant! but let him keep the lamp of spontaneity ever
burning in his soul. By its light the savage and the woman divine God;
without it, he may weigh creation - and 'find Him not!'

Nothing can be more superficial than the intellects of men given over to
formulas. They always imagine they can explore the depths of truth, if
they can succeed in detecting an inch of its surface. When they arrive
at the term of their own ideas, they believe they have exhausted the
absolute. They frequently want feeling, because they have, in some way,
destroyed their own spontaneity - that inexhaustible source of living and
original thought, individualized and yet universal, of ever-thronging
and vivid emotions.

The most spontaneous writer of the present day is a woman; fresh,
rugged, rich, and natural, as the wayside gold of the Dandelion above
described by Lowell - hence her sudden and great popularity with the
people. She feels strongly, and thinks justly, and fears not to say what
the great God gives her. May she continue to pour her 'wayside gold'
through the literary waves of the 'Atlantic' - and still keep the molten
treasure bright and burnished for the service of our altar. Let her not
fly too near the candles of the clergy, and thus sear her Psyche wings.
Need I name Gail Hamilton? Pardon the digression, courteous reader, and
let a woman greet a gifted sister as she passes on.

Let me not be misunderstood in my estimate of the spontaneous and
reflective faculties: they must _combine_ in any man _truly great_. If I
have dwelt on spontaneity, it is because it has not been sufficiently
prized or cultivated. The savant must have the faculties of the artist,
as had Kepler; the artist those of the savant, as had Michael Angelo and
Leonardo da Vinci. Study, reflective power, logical ability, erudition,
are _absolutely_ necessary; but one of their principal functions is to
be able to analyze aright the products of spontaneity; to give the soul
the consciousness and comprehension of the innumerable phenomena which
arise in it, in its varied relations with the world of ideas. The man
who is at the same time _spontaneous_ and _reflective_, is alone
_complete_, be he artist or savant; he lives, yet is able to analyze
life. Of such mental character are indeed all men of true genius,
whether mechanicians, architects, philosophers, savants, or artists.

The truths surging dimly through the universal consciousness, find
interpreters in the men of genius; through them the moral and religious
ideas of an epoch take form, and crystallize themselves in poetry and
the arts - as the laws of the divine geometry are realized in the
crystallizations of minerals. Poetry and the arts may be regarded as the
_sum_ of the absolute truths to the conception of which the masses have
risen at any given period in the life of a people.

Lamartine says:

'If humanity were forced to lose entirely one of the two orders of
truth - either all the mathematical or all the moral truths - it
should not hesitate to sacrifice the mathematical, for though it is
true if these were lost the world would suffer immense detriment,
yet if we should lose a single one of the moral truths, where would
man himself be? Humanity would be decomposed and perish!'

It cannot be denied that art has an incontestable superiority over
science in appealing to _all_, in addressing the masses in the language
they most readily understand, the language of feeling, imagination, and
enthusiasm. It is not intended only for men of culture, of leisure; all
classes are to be benefited by its exalting influence. Men whose lives
are almost entirely absorbed by occupations necessary for the comfort of
their families, can scarcely be contented with the monotonous and
wearisome spectacle of actual every-day life. Their cares are very
exhausting, agitating the heart and mind with harassing emotions; while
the immortal soul thirsts for eternal happiness. Can it be doubted that
such dim, vague, unsatisfied longings are the source of much immorality?
Mechanical operations, business speculations, commercial transactions,
important as they may appear to the utilitarian, are far from responding
to the requirements of the intellect, the imperious exactions of the
heart. Such men pine unconsciously for a draught of higher life, they
grow weary of existence. Literature and the arts may come to their aid,
creating for them an ideal world in the midst of the actual, in the
bosom of which they may find other emotions, interests, and images. They
may open, even in the desert of the most conventional life, an unfailing
spring of ideas and emotions, at which the poor world-wearied spirits
may slake their mental and moral thirst. The wonders of commercial
industry cannot quite chain the minds of men to the material world - it
is certain that the thirst for the ideal ever increases in exact
proportion with the development of the race. The true and high task of
the artist, the poet, is to divine these wants of humanity, to cultivate
these inchoate aspirations for the infinite, to hold its nectar to the
toil-worn, weary lips, to soothe and elevate the restless spirits, to
cultivate, in accordance with the essence of Christianity, this excess
of moral and intellectual being, which the occupations of this weary
earth-life cannot exhaust.

Besides, is it not true that the very character natural to the artist is
peculiarly fitted to exert a beneficial influence on a material and
commercial society? The pursuits of commerce are very apt to engender a
spirit of utter indifference to everything except material well-being - a
spirit of competition and mutual distrust most injurious to the
happiness of society; but the artist is proverbially careless of mere
pecuniary gain, and is always full of trust in his fellow men. In the
various phases of excitement which are constantly agitating society, he
looks only for the manifestation of noble passions and great thoughts.
In the base smiles wreathing so many false lips, he sees but the natural
expression of kindness; when lips vow fidelity, he dreams of an
affection based upon esteem, not upon a passing instinct, a sordid or
sensual interest - he believes in a union of hearts. Breathing everywhere
around him the high enthusiasm of his own truthful and loving soul, he
knows nothing of those perfidious jealousies and bitter enmities which
creep and twist in the shade, always hiding under some fair mask; of
those coarse intellects opposed to every noble impulse, or of that proud
and obstinate egotism which repels every generous emotion of the heart,
because it knows that _feeling_ creates an _equality_ which is wounding
to its haughty estimation of its own supposed merit.

It is certain that the soul was not created for the accumulation of
money, but to enjoy God. It is a free and living power, whose true
condition upon earth is the voluntary fulfilment of duty. It was made
for this by the God of love. Duty, love to God and man, is the Ideal of
human life; and as art and poetry should be the expression of the
highest and most universal ideas of the human race, duty should not only
be the Pole star of the artist's own life, but its chastening purity
should preside over all his conceptions. A profane or unchaste work of
art is a sacrilege against the most High; an insult to those divine
attributes in whose image that artist himself was made, and which he
must constantly struggle to suggest or typify, that the work of his hand


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Online LibraryVariousThe Continental Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 5, November, 1863 → online text (page 15 of 20)