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

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prove not a golden calf, an offence both to God and man. The moral ideal
always advances as we approach it. 'Be ye perfect as I am perfect,' is
the precept of the Master. This is the justification of the poet when he
portrays men in advance of the common level of life. The _moral_
Beautiful is the realization of _Duty_, which the poet should picture in
its most sublime form. He may and should sing of the passions, but _Duty
is the eternal pole star of the soul_! The susceptible heart of the
artist must respect the majesty of virtue. Unless his escutcheon glitter
with the brilliancy of purity, he is not worthy to be one of the
Illustrious Band whose high mission upon earth (with lowly reverence be
it said) is the manifestation of the Divine Attributes. O Holy Banner,
borne through the streets of the Heavenly City by saints and angels,
will the artist suffer thy snowy folds to be dragged through the mire of
crime? Shame to him when he dallies in the Circean Hall of the senses!
Infamy when he wallows in the sty of sensuality!

The effort to apprehend and reproduce the Supernal Loveliness on the
part of souls fittingly constituted so to do, has given to our race all
the marvels, the softening and elevating influences of the Ideal Realm.
The purest, the most exciting, the most intense pleasure is to be found
in the _pure_ contemplation of Beauty. We may indulge in it without
fear - no Hock and soda are required after its safe excitements! In this
contemplation alone do we find it possible to attain that pleasurable
elevation, _that excitement of the soul_, which we recognize as always
dependent upon our introduction into the Realm of the Ideal. This
excitement of the _soul_ is easily distinguished from the excitement of
the _mind_ consequent upon the perception of logical truths, the
satisfaction of the reason; or from passion, the excitement of the
_heart_. The excitement of the _soul_ is strictly and simply the
temporary satisfaction of the human aspiration for the Supernal Beauty;
and is quite independent of the search for finite truths for the
gratification of the _intellect_; or of that of passion, which is the
intoxication of the _heart_. For in regard to passion of the heart, its
home lies too near the senses to be entirely safe, and its tendency may
be to degrade; - while there may be high and useful truths which do not
move the _soul_ in the least.

The arts, then, always occupied with the reproduction of Beauty, gain
their power over the soul of man by reminding him of the Divine
Attributes. His thirst for the beautiful belongs to his immortality, for
it never rests in the appreciation of mere finite beauty, but struggles
wildly to obtain the Beauty above. Inspired by an ecstatic prescience of
the glories beyond the grave, we struggle, by multiform combinations
among the things and thoughts of time, to attain a portion of that
loveliness whose elements pertain to Eternity alone; and thus, when by
poetry or music, the most entrancing of the poetic moods, we find
ourselves melted into tears, we are not moved through any excess of
pleasure, but through an impatient sorrow at our inability to grasp
_now, wholly, here on earth_, those divine and rapturous joys of which,
through the poem or through the music, we obtain but brief and
indeterminate glimpses:

'Tears, idle tears, we know not whence they're flowing,
Tears from the depths of some _divine despair_.'

Tears of the created, the finite, for the Creator, the Infinite!

Every phenomenon of the material world is not a sign of the divine
thought, when considered apart from its relations with other things, as
every isolated word in a language is not, in itself, a sign of our
thought. There is something in the nature of things which constitutes
the visible sign the symbol of the Invisible. To reveal or suggest the
Absolute, it is not sufficient for the artist to combine fortuitously
mere natural phenomena; he must be able to select those in which God has
incarnated His Idea. Where is he to find a guide through this labyrinth
of sounds, forms, tones, and colors?

He must strive to realize the ideas given him by the Creator; he must
surround us here with the memories of our lost Paradise; he must repeat
to us the mysterious words and tones which God confides to his heart in
his lonely walks to the holy temple, in his solitary musings in the dim
forests, or in his prayerful hours under the starlit heavens of the
solemn midnight.

'With whose beauty (of created things) if they being delighted took
them to be gods, let them know how much the Lord of them is more
beautiful than they: _for the first Author of Beauty made all those
things_.' - _Book of Wisdom._

'And they shall strengthen the state of the world; and _their
prayer shall be in the work of their craft_, applying their soul,
and searching in the law of the Most High.' - _Ecclesiasticus._

Here, then, is the secret - gratitude and love are to be the teachers of
the artist. Naught save love will enable him to read the wondrous runes
of God's creation; nothing but sympathy can catch the strange tones of
mythic music; there is nothing pure, which can be painted, save by the
pure in heart. The foul or blunt feeling will see itself in everything,
and set down blasphemies; it will see Beelzebub in the casting out of
devils; it will find its God of flies in every alabaster box of precious
ointment; in faith and zeal toward God it will not believe; charity it
will regard as lust; compassion as pride; every virtue it will
misinterpret, every faithfulness malign. But the mind of the devout
artist will find its own image wherever it exists; it will seek for what
it loves, and draw it out of dens and caves; it will believe in its
being, often where it cannot see it, and always turn away its eyes from
beholding vanity; it will lie lovingly over all the foul and rough
places of the human heart, as the snow from heaven does over the hard
and broken mountain rocks, following their forms truly, yet catching
light from heaven for them to make them fair - and that must be a steep
and unkindly crag, indeed, which it cannot cover.

The artist must direct his eyes to the spheres of Sovereign Beauty; he
must lend his ears to the harmonies of the Eternal World, that he may be
able to decipher the symbolic signs which manifest the Being of beings,
and recognize the voices which murmur His Name; for in humble reverence,
yet joyful gratitude, it may be said that God Himself is the First,
True, and Last Master of the Artist.

Poetry and the arts have an end, ordained by Providence, with respect to
the extension of _social_ intercourse; a sacred duty to fulfil to
humanity at large. The signs of the times are startling; religions and
governments seem driven by a whirlwind, and it is of vital importance
that everything should be cultivated which has any tendency to bring men
together, to link multiform variety to unity; the national variety to
its distinctive unity; the variety of these distinctive unities, these
national governments of all races and peoples, to one great Unity of
government, freedom, development, justice, and love. There seems to be
but little doubt that our own country is destined to become the _central
heart_ of this marvellous _unity_. Is not the very war, now raging over
her fair fields, a war for Union? A false element allowed to exist in
our code of universal freedom, we mean slavery, like all Satanic
elements, has struggled to bring division, faction, disintegration,
death, in its train. It has convulsed, but awakened our country. Its
reign is almost over; its powers to dissever and destroy are now being
rapidly eliminated from a Constitution whose basic meaning is justice,
equality, and love. The battle is waging in this vast area of freedom,
not for spoil, dominion, vengeance, or ambition, but simply for _Union_
even with our enemies! Liberty, union, life, are parts and portions of
God's own law; slavery, dismemberment, death, belong of old to Lucifer.
Where God and Demon combat, can the strife be doubtful?

We suffer that we may be purified; but a Union broader, juster, and more
beneficent than any the world has yet seen, is to bud, bourgeon, and
bloom from this bloody contest. The rose of love is yet to grow upon
this crimson soil, and brother yet to stand with brother to insure the
union of the world. The glory of our present struggle for the happiness
of humanity, will yet be hailed by every living soul!

This is the unity sung by prophets, felt by poets, and foreshadowed in
the writings of statesmen, historians, and metaphysicians. Industry,
politics, commerce, science, and the arts, are the means which God has
placed at man's disposal to aid him in the accomplishment of this mighty
work. Man is _one_ in the fall of Adam; _one_ in the redemption of
Christ. Individuality and solidarity are but man's variety and unity.

It is certain, however, that a mere combination of commercial interests
does but little for the heart; science, with its exact formulas, is
almost equally powerless; they form together but the bony skeleton of a
lifeless union; poetry and the arts must clothe it with the soft and
clinging flesh, quicken it with the throbbing heart, and warm it with
the loving soul of an all-embracing humanity; and it is, to say the
least, very remarkable how exactly this important task is in keeping
with the nature of the arts, because they alone express the _feelings_,
the _distinctive individualities_ of men and nations, while the sciences
reveal only the 'impersonal' of the intellect. That a man may
demonstrate mathematical problems tells us nothing of his heart; if he
paint a single violet rightly, it tells of truth, sympathy, and love.
Men never leave in their scientific researches the traces of the
different phases of the soul, the _imprint_ of their own _personality_;
the sciences have everywhere the same character, because they contain
discrete and abstract ideas, necessarily the same in all minds.

In the creations of art, on the contrary, _feeling_, the spirit of life,
is added to the pure idea, and this new element of _individual
character_ introduced into the thought is, in its infinite subtlety,
sufficient to produce the immense variety which exists in the poetic and
artistic creations of different men, of different ages, and of different
nations. And the reason of this is very simple; it is because the heart
is the seat of _distinctive personality_. We never _love_ men for what
they _know_; we love them for what they feel and _are_. It is
consequently _feeling_ which is the principle of _union_ among men.

Thus it is through art and literature alone that national
individualities _really_ communicate with each other; it is through them
that what is _characteristic_ in each is made known to all; it is
through them that embittered, long-seated, and deeply-rooted national
prejudices must be dissipated; through them that the fusion of minds,
violently hostile to each other only because of their mutual ignorance
and misconception of character, must eventually be effected. Before the
means of constant intercommunication, daily becoming more rapid and
perfect, shall have compassed the whole earth with their lines of
lightning, before all nations shall be known to one another as
inhabitants of the same city - the artists, through art and literature,
will have confided to the human heart of their brethren their own most
sacred feelings, the hidden beatings of their life-pulse, so that when
the material barriers separating souls shall fall, when steam and iron
shall subdue space and time, men of distant climes will no longer stand
as strangers to one another, but meet with all the enthusiasm of near
and dear friends long since initiated in all the holy and tender secrets
of the home hearth; the due place of affection, honor, and gratitude
ready for all true souls at the sacred fireside of appreciative
fraternal love.

It is remarkable that the art marked and conditioned by the necessity of
the most _perfect unity_, the art almost exclusively intended for the
expression of and appeal to the feelings of the soul, the art without
material model of any kind, and consequently the most ideal and original
of all, in which the pulse of time itself marshals the tones in order,
symmetry, and proportion, coloring them with the joys and woes, hopes
and fears of humanity - should now be undoubtedly entering upon a new era
of far higher and wider development. This fact contains a germ which is
to blossom in the most brilliant bloom; the crowning flower in that
_living unity_, which is, indeed, the '_manifest Destiny_' of our race.

There is certainly something exceedingly remarkable in the unitive
powers of music. In the first place, its present popularization cannot
fail to multiply the relations of men with one another, as each separate
instrument, like an arithmetical figure, has an _absolute_, as well as a
_relative_ value. It may not be sufficient in itself to produce
_harmony_; but when placed in UNION with others, it gains a double or
triple value, according to the part assigned it in a musical Whole. A
single _jar_ in time or tune spoils the entire effect of the marvellous
variety and order, attained in the _utter oneness_ of any good musical
work. The desire to increase the limits of art, to multiply its
delicious emotions, will infallibly lead those who cultivate this
ethereal study to frequent reunions, in order that they may produce the
Beautiful in more fulness, obtain a greater variety of effect and tone,
cradled, as it must ever be in music, in the bosom of the strictest
unity.

Music has its own trinity, composed of Rhythm, Melody, and Harmony.
_Rhythm_ is the pulse of time; the tones register its heart beats and
manifest its soul, its _melody_; _harmony_ is the concurrent sympathy or
antagonism elicited by its annunciation in the invisible realm in which
it moves. Unity is first manifested in the rhythm; then, as the tones
_consecutively_ follow each other, the succeeding one always born and
growing immediately from the one just expiring, in the consequent
_melody_; and lastly, as the tones progress _simultaneously_, hand to
hand, and heart to heart, with the single line or passion of the melody,
conditioned and responding to it in all its varied phases - (the
individual and collective, the soul and its surroundings) - the grand
diapason of harmony rolls on - and the magic _unity_ of music is
complete! Hence, part of its power over men. But like all organic, basic
life-principles, its relations with the human spirit defy analysis. Its
unitive influence cannot be denied, even by those who do not feel its
charm. Let them but consider that no public act of humanity implying the
_primeval unity_ of the race, is considered complete without it, and
they must be convinced that it is pre-eminently the art of social union.
When an entire nation collects as a band of brothers to resist
aggression, to repel invasion, it is music, the unitive art, which
animates them to seek death itself to resist wrongs which would burden
all, its very rhythm keeping in massive _unison_, _together_, the tread
of thousands, causing all hearts to throb in _one_ measure, and so
regulating the most heterogenous masses that they move as it were as
_one_ mighty man. And in all public acknowledgments of our collective
dependence as _one_ race upon the _one_ God, music alone is considered
sufficiently symbolic and tender to express the universal sense of
helplessness, of generic trust in His marvellous mercy.

Music blesses the innocent bride with the first chant of forever
_united_, and consequently holy love. It hallows at the baptismal font
the introduction of the infant into the mystical _oneness_ of the
children of Christ. Even at the grave it softens human sorrow by its
heavenly whisperings of _eternal union_ in the bosom of Infinite love.

France is ever ready to receive Italian, Sclavonic, and German artists
with characteristic and appreciative enthusiasm; and America applauds
with _naïve_ rapture that skill, as yet, alas! foreign to her native
soil.

'I pant for the music which is divine,
My heart in its thirst is a dying flower;
Pour forth the sound like enchanted wine;
Loosen the notes in a silver shower;
Like an herbless plain, for the gentle rain,
I gasp, I faint, till they wake again.

'Let me drink of the spirit of that sweet sound -
More - oh, more - I am thirsting yet!
It loosens the serpent which care has bound
Upon my heart to stifle it;
The dissolving strain, in every vein,
Passes into my heart and brain.'

SHELLEY.

Artists and litterateurs are the true representatives of the countries
in which they live; because they alone reveal to us the secret
throbbings of the great national heart; and the warm and sympathetic
feelings which they excite in foreign climes, are _golden links_ drawing
more closely the ties of mutual understanding and affection, welding
them together in that generous _reciprocal_ esteem and comprehension,
which is destined to _unite_ all climes and tongues.

'A touch of nature makes the whole world kin.'

The sympathies of life are widening and increasing. Societies are
constantly arising devoting themselves to the solacing of human misery;
eager sympathies are evinced by different countries in the sufferings of
distant lands; ready and substantial aid is gladly tendered in cases of
pestilence and famine; and religious intolerance and bigotry are raving
themselves to rest. Christ is more and creeds are less than of old. The
fact that a free government is now in successful operation, in which
(when one false element, slavery, shall be forever eliminated) the
voluntary annexation of new states and new countries would be but new
ties of strength, with the consentaneous and related facts above
quoted, tend to prove that humanity is entering upon a new era; that it
is not destined to trail its passionate and quivering wings much longer
through the mire of mere materialism; but that newer and higher life is
spreading _simultaneously_ through all its members; that the elevating
love of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, is hourly penetrating it
more deeply; that after its intellect shall have been trained by the
sciences - its force increased by industry, commerce, and
statesmanship - its inmost heart will be developed by the Charities, now,
as with the subtile Greeks, _one_ with the Graces - the arts for the
manifestation of the Beautiful. Everything tends to prove, even the wars
now waging for national entities, that the human race is approaching
that _promised_ phase of civilization, in which _all_ the elements are
to combine in glorious _unity_, sound in witching harmony, and men, full
of love to God and man, are to become living stones in the vast temple
of the redeemed, _one_ through the loving heart of the Brother who died
for them all; _one_ through Him with the Infinite God, since in Him
finite and Infinite are forever _one_!

A few words in the cause of those in advance of their times, and we
attain the close of our first volume.

It is a startling fact, in the history of humanity, that the benefactors
of the race have always been its martyrs and victims; dyeing every
glorious gift which they have won for their brethren in the royal purple
of the kingly blood of their own hearts. Is this, brethren, to last
forever? Shall we never requite the dauntless Columbus, in the wide sea
of Beauty? Of all men living, the artist most requires the boon of
sympathy. The most susceptible of them all, the musician, plunging into
the unseen depths of the time-ocean to wrestle for his gems, feels his
heart die within him, when he sees his fellow men turn coldly away from
the pure and priceless pearls which he has won for them from the stormy
waves and whirlpools of chaotic and compassless sound.

As the artists must be considered as the standard-bearers of that
blissful banner of progress to be effected through the culture of the
_sympathies_ of the race, unrolling that great Oriflamme of humanity, on
which bloom the Heavenly Lilies of that chaste Passion of the Soul - _the
longing for the infinite_ - let us acknowledge that we have failed to
render happy the great spirits no longer among us; and let us strive,
for the future, not to chill with our mistrust and coldness, not to
drive into the sickness of despair with our want of intelligent
sympathy, the gifted living, who, as angels of a better covenant, still
lovingly linger among us! Let us strive to learn the lesson set before
us with such tenderness in the following eloquent words of Ruskin,
fitting close as they are to the many which we have already collated and
combined with our work from his glowing pages.

'He who has once stood beside the grave to look back upon the
companionship now forever closed, feeling how impotent _there_ are
the wild love and keen sorrow to give one moment's pleasure to the
pulseless heart, or atone in the lowest measure to the departed
spirit for the hour of unkindness, will scarcely for the future
incur that debt to the _heart_ which can only be discharged to the
_dust_. But the lessons which men receive as _individuals_, they
never learn as _nations_. Again and again they have seen their
_noblest_ descend into the grave, and have thought it enough to
garland the tombstone when they have not crowned the brow, and to
pay the honor to the _ashes_ which they had denied to the _spirit_.
Let it not displease them that they are bidden, amidst the tumult
and glitter of their busy life, to listen for the few voices and
watch for the few lamps which God has toned and lighted to charm
and guide them, that they may not learn their sweetness by their
silence, nor their light by their decay.'

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the highest poet of our own century, has
thus given us the artist's creed of resignation, closing her chant with
his sublime Te Deum:


VOICE OF THE CREATOR.

''And, O ye gifted givers, ye
Who give your liberal hearts to me,
To make the world this harmony, -

''Are ye resigned that they be spent
To such world's help?' The spirits bent
Their awful brows, and said - 'Content!

''We ask no wages - seek no fame!
Sew us for shroud round face and name,
God's banner of the oriflamme.

''We are content to be so bare
Before the archers! everywhere
Our wounds being stroked by heavenly air.

''We lay our souls before thy feet,
That Images of fair and sweet
Should walk to other men on it.

''We are content to feel the step
Of each pure Image! - let those keep
To mandragore, who care to sleep:

''For though we must have, and have had
Right reason to be earthly sad -
THOU POET-GOD, ART GREAT AND GLAD!''

END OF VOLUME FIRST.




THE LIONS OF SCOTLAND.


The 'restoration' mania which now pervades Great Britain, however much
it be declaimed against by certain hypercritical architects, is yet
certain to have at least one favorable result, in preserving to the
future tourist the noblest monuments of the past. The abbeys and castles
and tombs of England and Scotland are now so well cared for, that, ruins
though they be, they will last for centuries. And yet the observant
traveller can note, year by year, little changes, trifling alterations,
which, though without great importance, are not destitute of interest;
for he who has once visited Melrose, will be interested to learn that
even one more stone has fallen from the ruin.

It is intended, in the following pages, to review the present condition,
and state the recent changes in the 'Lions of Scotland,' and
particularly in the localities with which the memories of Burns and
Scott - memories so dear, both to the untravelled and travelled
American - are most closely associated. Of the thousands of visitors who
yearly flock to do mental homage at the tomb of Shakespeare, one out of
every ten is from the United States; and so a large minority of the
tourists in Scotland, and particularly of those most deeply interested
in Scotland's greatest bards, hail from the New World. The conclusion of
the war will probably be the signal for an unusual hegira from America
to Europe; and these notes of the actual condition, in A.D. 1863, of
Scotland's famed shrines, may serve to whet the increasing appetite for
foreign travel.

'Bobby Burns' is buried at Dumfries, a rather dull town, which,
fortunately for the tourist, has no notable church or ruin to be visited


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Online LibraryVariousThe Continental Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 5, November, 1863 → online text (page 16 of 20)