George Henry Lewes

 

 

Text
Editionsbericht
Literatur

 

Hegel's Æsthetics. Philosophy of Art.

 

1. HEGEL's Vorlesungen über die Æsthetik. Herausgegeben von Dr. H. G. Hotho. 3 Bände. (Hegel's Lectures on Æsthetics. Edited by Dr. Hotho. 3 vols. Berlin, 1835.)
2. SOLGER's Vorlesungen über die Æsthetik. Herausgegeben von K. W. L. Heyse. (Solger's Lectures on Æsthetics. Edited by Heyse. Leipsig, 1829.)
3. JEAN PAUL. Vorschule der Æsthetik. (Jean Paul's Introduction to Æsthetics. 3 vols. Leipsig, 1826.)
4. QUATREMÈRE DE QUINCEY. Essai sur l'Idéal dans ses applications pratiques aux arts du Dessein. Paris, 1837.
5. DE QUINCEY. Essay on the Nature, the End, and the Means of Imitation in the Fine Arts. Translated by J. C. Kent. London, 1827.

 

IT is a mistake to assert, as is so often heedlessly done, that the English have no system of Æsthetics – no genuine philosophy of art – a serious mistake, implying reflections on our "commercial character" which amount to insult. We have a system; a definite, tangible, perfectly practical one; and it lies written in the weighty volumes of Smith's 'Wealth of Nations', Macculloch's 'Commercial Dictionary,' and De Morgan 'On the Differential Calculus'. Art may not with us be a "revelation of the Infinite," but it is a very positive branch of trade, and subject to all the fluctuations of market and fashion, in common with every other produce of refined civilization. Our age is a practical – our country a com[2]mercial one. A book is not usually published to give utterance to some mighty and carefully elaborated truth, but "in consequence of the demand." Great authors are no longer looked upon as priests of the social life, speaking from the foot of their respective altars the winged words of a divine mission, but as "popular and admired writers," whose names ensure a ready demand from circulating libraries and book clubs. No poetic mania – no μανία δεινὴ (such as Aristophanes attributes to Æschylus, unable otherwise to account for his golden verses), is now, except in obscurest corners, supposed necessary for the production of immortal works – but a refined calculation and comprehensive survey of the "state of the market." The callida junctura (skilful arrangement) which Horace recommends has taken the place of the real art – calida junctura, or impassioned conjunction. How far this commercial theory may be true we know not; at the same time we are happy in the knowledge that such is not the universal belief, that other nations regard Art as something far transcending any commerce yet invented, and that many even here in Britain share the same opinion; to these then we address ourselves in the hope of calling their attention to the æsthetical systems of German philosophers, and so let an examination and comparison of them with their own take place, which may not be fruitless in disseminating truer notions amongst our artists.

To those who regard Art as something higher than works "done to order," and as requiring for its production higher endowments than persevering industry and cunning imitation of rules and examples, and to those artists who study the works of their predecessors, not to steal materials with which to build up their own mosaic rickety productions, but to catch some reflection of the light which shone in them, and with it learn to read the deeper mysteries and meanings of nature, to sit under the sun of genius and watch with reverent eyes the direction of its beams, piercing with them into unexplored, undreamt of regions, and then returning to utter the glad tidings to the world – in a word, to the Artist, as opposed to the Artisan, the present state of criticism in England must needs be an unsatisfactory object of contemplation. The poet whose life has been distilled into his work, who in obeying [3] the ever-moving impulse from within, has laboriously chosen, arranged and fused his materials, so that a coherent whole arises from the smouldering ashes of his sufferings, finds in criticism no sympathizing, reverent and affectionate sister, who will assiduously fetch out the latent meaning, and irradiate, with her understanding, those more dim and intense feelings of his imagination which may have found expression in unusual forms. Of what avail are years of toil? why waste time upon your art when it will not be recognised, and when a few "quotable passages" and showy descriptions will be sure to "tell" better? This is what the artist may be tempted in his despair to ask himself. There are some critics indeed who put forth deep and comprehensive views, evincing a perfect appreciation and knowledge of the aim and means of art, but they might easily be numbered; for indeed what Göthe calls "Sinn für ein æsthetisches Ganzes," is given but to few.

But let us turn our eyes to France or Germany, and see what a different state of things presents itself. We cannot take up the merest three-halfpenny journal without being struck with the different spirit animating it: whatever may be the extent of the critic's vision, he looks out from a higher point of view, and speaks from ascertained principles. Such being the facts of the case, let us show how imperative it is in us to seek an outlet from our own "cabin'd, cribb'd, confined" sphere, into the great world of æsthetics. An unmistakeable tendency towards it is to be read in various quarters. Men are oppressed with a sense of the insufficiency of their own views, and in struggling to overleap the barriers but too often fall exhausted on the ground, with no other result. Yet this struggle, however impotent in their own persons, calls attention to the fact, and awakens the clear eye of penetration which may see the outlet. This also has in some measure been done. The immense influx of German literature has brought with it an importation of its æsthetics * – unfortunately only in fragments and imperfect [4] insights – nowhere as a complete system; and the great diffusion of the works of the two Schlegels, already translated, is an evidence that the subject itself is not uncongenial. But to attain some more complete insight into Art, to produce something higher than acute fragmentary criticism, we must go back to Germany and obtain some idea of it as a science. It is to facilitate this purpose that we propose introducing to our readers the works we have placed at the head of this article.

The definite meaning of the word 'æsthetics' it may not be superfluous to explain. The mere word is vague and poor enough; it was invented by Baumgarten many years ago to express "the doctrine of emotions" (ab αἰσθάνομαι), because Art addresses the feelings rather than the intellect. But this, as all abstract terms, requires elucidation; and this elucidation can only be completely gained by a study of the thing, to which after a few remarks we shall address ourselves.

Æsthetics then is the philosophy of Art. It is not criticism, neither is it technical knowledge, but the theory of the inner life and essence of Art. It is not purely empirical, like criticism, which is the knowledge of peculiar facts or laws, derived from observation of works; but the theory of Art generally – the development of the fundamental Idea through its particular forms and manifestations, thus deducing all secondary laws, all critical canons, from the one primary law. Such is æsthetics as a science – the à-priori theory of Art – the absolute statement of the conditions, means and end of Art, rigorously deduced from philosophical principles. Criticism of course, if it would be philosophical, must grow out of an æsthetical foundation, as the practical and applied form of its philosophy, and so in common conversation or writing, æsthetics and criticism are often confounded. Nor is there much harm in this, if the empirical and philosophical natures of the two be always distinguished. When an incident, character, or sentiment, is said to be not æsthetical, it is meant that such is a violation of the feeling which it is the end of Art to produce. Prosaic passages are therefore nonæsthetical, as also are contradictions of known laws of pleasurable emotion. Criticism is to æsthetics what the practice of medicine is to physiology – the application to [5] particular cases of the fundamental knowledge of the constitution and organization of man, aided by a mass of particular observations. Æsthetics is the physiology of Art, and as all Art has a philosophical foundation, so it necessarily demands a philosophical elucidation. The necessity for a philosophical fundus, not only to criticism, but to all forms of speculation, cannot, one would think, for an instant be doubted, and certainly not by those imbued with German literature, where the existence of such a stratum lying underneath the whole of practical thought is the one thing prominent and distinctive.

But the deplorable condition in which criticism is tossing restlessly about on the great ocean of uncertainty, on all points deeper than mere technic, may be best ascertained by a consideration of the want of definiteness, the want of unanimity on the first question of all – on the question which must be clearly comprehended and solved before one single step can be taken, containing as it does the germ of all Art, we mean the oft-mooted question – What is poetry? Have there not been innumerable essays, disquisitions, discussions, definitions and prefaces on this subject, and are we nearer the mark? Alas, no! The only cheering sign in the whole matter is the restlessness, which, not satisfied with these vague generalities, ever prompts men to fresh attempts. This is an old question, and one which, from its very simplicity and our familiarity with its subject, is not easily analysed. Hence the vagueness and inapplicability of all definitions. Men do not look steadily and patiently at the thing, but follow its shifting lights, dancing now here, now there, and give us but a sense of their own uneasiness for result. Thus when Schlegel calls it "the mirror of ideas eternally true," he is not only wrong (as we shall see), but extremely vague – what application can be made of such a definition? Schiller does not advance the matter by calling it "the representation of the supersensuous." Aristotle's celebrated dictum of poetry being an "imitative art," does not distinguish it from the other arts, and is moreover false. To say poetry is an imitative art is saying nothing if true, but it is not true. An image is defined by Quatremère de Quincey to be "morally speaking the same as its model, though physically [6] it is some other," and imitation is "to produce the resemblance of a thing, but in some other thing which becomes the image of it *." This is the best possible explanation for Aristotle, and yet it does not render his definition correct. Poetry is substitutive and suggestive, not imitative; words, not images, are employed; nor let it be supposed, as it too generally is, that words raise the images in our minds — they seldom, if ever, raise an image of the thing, often no images at all, as some of the finest passages will evidence . Compare Æschylus, Milton, or Shakspeare on this point. "It is one thing to make an idea clear, and another to make it affecting to the imagination ." What images does Milton's description of Death call up?

                      "The other shape,
If shape it might be call'd that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joint or limb;
Or substance might be call'd that shadow seem'd,
For each seem'd either; black he stood as night;
Fierce as ten furies — terrible as hell."

If poetry is an imitative art – imitative of what? of external reality? images of what? of things seen or felt? Of what is the above passage imitative? "Whoever attentively considers the best passages of poetry will find that it does not in general produce its end by raising the images of things, but by exciting a passion similar to that which real objects will excite by other means §." This is profoundly true, and goes to the root of the matter. Even in description, when imitation would naturally be more close, the poet does not present images of the thing described. "Descriptive poetry consists, no doubt, in description, but in description of things as they appear, not as they are; and it paints them, not in their bare natural lineaments, but arrayed in the colours and seen through the medium of the imagination set in action by the feelings. If a poet is to describe a lion, he will not set about [7] it as a naturalist would, intent on stating the truth, but by suggesting the most striking likenesses and contrasts which might occur to a mind contemplating the lion in the state of awe, wonder, or terror, which the spectacle naturally excites *." The error we are uprooting is deeply seated and far-spread; its traces are constantly visible in criticism; and it was so firmly believed in by Dr. Darwin, that he made it the groundwork of his poetry. A signal instance of his misapprehension occurs in the 'Botanic Garden,' where he thus criticises Pope: "Mr. Pope has written a bad verse in the Windsor Forest,

'And Kennet swift, for silver eels renown'd.'

The word 'renown'd' does not present the idea of a visible object to the mind, and thence is prosaic. But change the line thus,

'And Kennet swift, where silver graylings play,'

it becomes poetry, because the scenery is then brought before the eye." If this were once admitted it would sweep away the finest poetry, and substitute an animated catalogue of things. This error is, as indeed is all error, an incomplete truth. It is true in part, and only false when applied to the whole. An image that is addressed to the eye should of course be clear and defined, or it is useless. Images in poetry are used to intensify, or render intelligible that which would otherwise not be so clear, and therefore a visual object may be brought to illustrate one that is not visual — but when thus selected it should be correct. So far Darwin's theory is admissible; but he makes the grand mistake of supposing that all images in poetry must be addressed to the eye; forgetting that the other senses, physical and moral (so to speak), are also addressed. Poetry then is not an imitative art, in any sense which may be legitimately given to imitation; nor can we think, with the Marquis de Santillana, that it is an invention of "useful things," which, being enveloped in a beautiful veil, are arranged, exposed and concealed according to a certain calculation, measurement and weight. "E que es la poesia, que en nuestra vulgar llamamos gaya sciencia, sino un fingimento de cosas utiles, è veladas con una hermosa cobertura, [8] compuestas, distinguidas, escondidas por cierto cuento, peso è medida?" Our English critics talk elaborately about its being derived from ποιέω and meaning creation — whereupon many rhetorical flourishes, and the thing is done!

Done certainly, and to the complete satisfaction of the doer, but unhappily to the complete satisfaction of no other mortal, since the only possible value of a definition is, not the mere utterance of rhetoric, but the being able to use a searching, definite expression as a safety-lamp to guide us through the perplexed labyrinth of philosophy; and that no man can grasp any lamp hitherto proffered, arises from the fact of its being, like Macbeth's dagger, a mere phantom "proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain" of the definer – a delusive Will-o'-the-wisp leading the confiding traveller through the muddiest bogs of error. The old scientific writers used to comfort their ignorance by saying that "nature abhors a vacuum," and so most men think poetry abhors a definition. We, on the contrary, think she abhors nothing, but eminently invites inspection; and "let us therefore," to use the words of a philosophical critic, "attempt, in the way of modest inquiry, not to coerce and confine nature within the bounds of an arbitrary definition, but rather to find the boundaries which she herself has set, and erect a barrier around them; not calling mankind to account for having misapplied the word poetry, but attempting to clear up to them the conception which they already attach to it, and to bring before their minds as a distinct principle that which as a vague feeling has really guided them in their actual employment of the term *."

We think Poetry demands two separate definitions, each the complement to the other.

1. Its abstract nature, i. e. Art as Art – the "spirit which informs" architecture, sculpture, painting, music and poetry, considered in its abstract existence.

2. Its concrete nature, i. e. poetry as an individual art, and as such distinguished from the others, and from all forms of thought whatever. These definitions we offer as

1. Poetry is the beautiful phasis of a religious Idea.

[9] 2. Poetry is the metrical utterance of emotion. [This either expressive of emotion in itself, or calculated to raise emotion in the minds of others.] These two definitions, united into one general definition, may therefore stand thus: — the metrical utterance of emotion, having beauty for its result, and pervaded by a religious Idea which it thereby symbolizes.

The wording of these definitions may be questionable, and they require elucidation: the first may be called the religious Idea incarnate in the beautiful; but any formula must needs be elucidated: and this we proceed to attempt — till after which we beg the reader to suspend his judgment. The second we must consider first. Poetry must be emotive, it must be metrical — these are its conditions.

The domain of Art is not the intellect, but the emotions – not thought, but feeling; it occupies itself with thoughts only as they are associated with feelings; as Bettina profoundly says, "art is the intuition of spirit into the senses. What you feel becomes thought, and what you strive to invent becomes sensual feeling *;" and thus, as Coleridge and Wordsworth have long taught, the true antithesis to poetry is not prose, but science. "Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of science." Thoughts do and must abound in all good poetry, but they are there not for their own sake, but for the sake of a feeling; a thought is sometimes the root, of which the feeling is the flower, and sometimes the flower, of which feeling is the root. Thought for thought's sake is science – thought for feeling's sake, and feeling for feeling's sake are poetry.

And therefore must poetry be emotive. Take as an illustration Shakspeare's description of morning –

"Lo! where the morn, in russet mantle clad,
 Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastern hill."

Every one recognises this as poetry; yet change the emotive expression of it into a statement and it ceases to be poetry, or even change it into figurative prose, and by thus altering its emotive expression, which the "lo!" so well commences, the poetry is gone. Thus, "The morning now arises clothed [10] in his mantle of russet, and walks over the dew on the high hill lying yonder in the east" – this is ornate prose. But perhaps the intense figurativeness of the language obscures our meaning; so take a line from 'Childe Harold' –

"The moon is up – but yet it is not night!"

These are two statements, which if put as facts in conversation are as prosaic as the statement of the weather, or the time of day; yet here the speaker himself is in a state of emotion – he utters it in awe, in mystery, in meditation – he does not announce it as a fact, and his emotion communicates itself to us. So Shakspeare's most religious saying, that there is a soul of goodness in things evil, is in itself no more than a philosophical opinion addressed to the understanding; but as such it would be thought for thought's sake (i. e. science): here the emotive expression of it shows it to be for the sake of the feeling –

                    "God Almighty!
There is some soul of goodness in things evil,
Would men observingly distil it out."

Pity that the solemn and fitting adjuration, "God Almighty," should always be omitted when the passage is quoted!

But although not always expressing emotion, poetry must always by some art excite it, and never let its necessary statements or prosaic passages be prosaic in effect. Wordsworth often offends in this way by descriptions which are nothing more than catalogues; as take the following, which is, except a word here and there, ten-feet prose: –

                "'Tis nothing more
Than the rude embryo of a little dome
Or pleasure-house, once destined to be built
Among the birch trees of this rocky isle.
But as it chanced Sir William having learn'd
That from the shore a full-grown man might wade
And make himself a freeman of the spot
At any hour he chose, the knight forthwith
Desisted, and the quarry and the mound
Are monuments of his unfinish'd task."

If there were not so many hundred similar prosaic passages in Wordsworth, one would wonder that he could have let this pass; it is certainly antagonistic to the spirit of poetry, and [11] is felt to be so, all critical canons apart. "These are the axioms of poetry," says Solger. "Everything must be action or emotion. Hence a purely descriptive poetry is impossible, if it confine itself to its subject without action or emotion; on which point Lessing has some admirable remarks in the 'Laocoon'. In Homer you never see a particular subject merely described, but the description is always contained in some action. So the clothing of Agamemnon, or the shield of Achilles, where the subjects represented appear themselves as living and in action *;" and the reason of this is given by Hegel when he says, "not things and their practical existence, but pictures and imaginative symbols are the materials of poetry."

It is this emotive principle which creates all the ornaments, as they are styled, such as personification, metaphor and trope; for nothing being announced as a fact, but every thing as seen through the passionate medium of the speaker's soul, it necessitates a figurative impassioned language; and here Professor Wilson's definition of poetry, "man's thoughts tinged by his feelings," becomes admissible, except that it does not demarcate it from novels or oratory. "Ornaments" may be used by imitators and verse-makers, but they are always foreign, repulsive and cumbersome, simply because they are ornaments ostentatiously worn for their glitter, and not real associations clinging round the central feeling. But in the true poet, imagination acting on the feeling, or the feeling acting on the imagination, condenses and fuses a whole series of ideas into one nexus of expression; such is personification, one of the most poetical of figures, but which, when not springing from the ground of real passion, becomes an impertinence in the imitator or scholar-poet, and warms the mind no more than prose. When Milton speaks of

"The starry Galileo in his woes,"

it is as if lightning flashed on the whole dark career of the man; all the scattered rays of light which have played around his name, his discoveries and his misfortunes are converged into one focus, and stand burning inextinguishably there. This is an instance of true passionate expression. Byron, in his [12] celebrated stanzas on the Dying Gladiator, has given as stri king an instance of the false expression — the merely recherché illustration suggested by thought or perception of analogies purely intellectual: –

"And through his side the last drops ebbing slow
 From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,
 Like the first of a thunder shower."

Nothing can be more forced than the comparison of drops of blood to drops of rain. Note also the antithesis of last drops of blood and first drops of rain. The common epithet "snowy bosom" is another example. Marino in Italy, and Gongora in Spain, as well as Cowley and Donne in England, only pushed this principle into a system, and the result was affectation or wit. It is against such ornaments, and the vicious Gongorism they induced, that Wordsworth's theory was virtually directed; and although he was radically wrong in saying poetry differed in nothing from prose, yet we confess that such ornaments as coquettes put on the bosoms of their verses are but as gauds to hide the wrinkled skin on which they glitter; still those who, in their fury of simplicity – who, in their disgust at dowager-diamonds, declare that a lovely maiden shall not place a rose in her hair, because ornament is unnecessary, commit a sad blunder, and slight the beautiful because the deformed will ape it. Wordsworth, in consequence, often writes passages worthlessly prosaic. Nevertheless, although prosaic, such are not prose, simply because of their metrical expression; and this leads us to the second point of our inquiry, viz. the essential position of verse.

The dispute as to whether "prose can be poetry," is one of the most astounding instances of the want of clear notions on art which could well be selected – it even beats the discussion as to whether Pope was a poet. The unanimity of critics, that verse is nothing essential, is so great as almost to overwhelm our deep-rooted convictions, and did we not fancy that we not only see their error, but also how it became one, we should be tempted to give up in despair. Not only do writers perpetually caution their readers against supposing that they "regard verse as synonymous with poetry" (as in truth it is not) – of which opinion they have a religious horror – but the sum of the whole we take to be, in a recent critic's contend[13]ing that Wycherley and Congreve were poets! The cause of this wide-spread error is partly owing to the want of clear definitions, partly that verse is a thing to be learned by all, whereas poetry is confessedly a talent given to few, and partly that many passages of prose are poetical. Poetical they may be, but not poetry — partaking of the imaginative spirit, but not of the musical body – a distinction always overlooked. It were as wise to talk of painting without colour as poetry without verse. Design is the groundwork — expresses the idea; but design alone is not painting: so thoughts or emotions uttered in prose are not poetry, but the mere cartoons of poetry. It is on all hands admitted that poetry is an art; if so, then we demand of the critic, what are its conditions? Is prose an art? or is it the same art? These questions admit but of one answer. Much verse is employed by ambitious young gentlemen and ladies to express thoughts and feelings, real or imaginary, which criticism must admit to be very bad poetry, and which can get no recognition as art, except from the authors, and the "select friends" who "so earnestly urged their publication;" and the classing this trash with the Homers and Dantes, with all that we know of holy, indestructible beauty, may certainly blind the angry critic. Nevertheless public house signs, or the delineations of Scotchmen standing before tobacconists' shops, are specimens of painting and sculpture in degree, though not of a degree to be admitted into Academy exhibitions. Turnspits are dogs, though of a beaten and despised race. Synonymous with poetry no one would assert verse to be; but an artistic element, a condition – Eine sinnliche Hülle — we insist upon being conceded to it. "Versified prose," says Hegel, "is not poetry, but simply verse; as a poetical expression of an otherwise prosaic handling is only poetical prose; nevertheless metre is the first and only condition absolutely demanded by poetry, yea, even more necessary than a figurative, picturesque diction *."

Verse is the form of poetry; not the form as a thing arbitrary, but as a thing vital and essential; it is the incarnation of poetry. To call it the dress, and to consider it apart as a [14] thing distinct, is folly, except in technical instruction. Rhythm is not a thing invented by man, but a thing evolved from him *, and it is not merely the accidental form, but the only possible form of poetry; for there is a rhythm of feeling correspondent in the human soul. "Melody," said Beethoven, "is the sensual life of poetry. Do not the spiritual contents of a poem become sensual feeling through melody?" Verse is the type of the soul within.

Poetry then, we agree with Wordsworth, is not the antithesis to prose, neither is animal the antithesis to plant; but a generic difference exists, which it is always fatal to overlook. Verse is not synonymous with poetry, but is the incarnation of it; and prose may be emotive – poetical, but never poetry. To those who assert, that all that is said in verse might be equally said in prose, we answer, as soon might cabbages be violets; we may as well object to the restricted size of the violet, forgetting its odour, or to its want of utility, forgetting its beauty. George Sand, in 'Les Sept Cordes de la Lyre,' has a fine answer to some objections on the incompleteness of the form of art for the communication of truth: "Maître, vous oubliez que l'art est une forme, et rien autre chose." And a greater than George Sand has profoundly said,

"Müsset in dem Kunstbetrachten
 Immer Eins wie Alles achten,
 Nichts ist drinnen, Nichts <ist> draussen
 Denn was innen, das ist aussen."

We wish this point to be well weighed, because, if we are correct in our conclusions, they lead to important results, and many old debated questions vanish at once. Their principal merit consists in demarcating poetry from everything else – from novels or from eloquence, – a distinction all have felt, and none clearly explained. Coleridge is everywhere vague [15] and unsatisfactory, and can find no other distinction between poetry and novels, than that "poetry permits the production of a highly pleasurable whole, of which each part shall also communicate for itself a distinct and conscious pleasure." The distinction has however been so ingeniously put by the philosophical critic before quoted, and the passage contains so much note-worthy matter, that we extract it: –

"Poetry and eloquence are both alike the expression or uttering forth of feeling. But, if we may be excused the seeming affectation of the antithesis, we should say that eloquence is heard, poetry is over-heard. Eloquence supposes an audience; the peculiarity of poetry appears to us to lie in the poet's utter unconsciousness of a listener. Poetry is feeling confessing itself to itself in moments of solitude, and bodying forth itself in symbols, which are the nearest possible representations of the feeling in the exact shape in which it exists in the poet's mind. Eloquence is feeling pouring itself forth to other minds, courting their sympathy, or endeavouring to influence their belief, or move them to passion or to action *."

The critic thence deduces the reason why the "French, who are the least poetical of all great and refined nations, are among the most eloquent; the French also being the most sociable, the vainest and the least self-dependent." But it appears to us that the critic has here fixed his eye solely on the spirit, forgetting the form, he has looked at the creative mind of the artist, not at the work of art; regarding the motive, not the result. We maintain that verse alone, by conditioning the art, is the grand distinction between poetry and every other art.

We have now disposed of the second, or technical part of our definition, and are now in a condition to examine the first part — the beautiful phasis of a religious Idea.

The word "beautiful" itself might challenge a definition, were it not sufficiently intelligible from the context; but "pleasurable" might also be substituted. That the medium of Art must necessarily be the Beautiful, no one doubts; but unfortunately this dictum is not sufficiently applied in criticism, or the Deformed and Disgusting would not so often have been suffered to pass. "The world of art," says Jean Paul, "must be the highest, the most ideal, wherein every pang dissolves into a greater pleasure, and where we resemble [16] men on mountain-tops; the storm which bursts heavily on the real life and world below, is to us but as a cooling shower. Hence every poem is unpoetical, as every song is unmusical that ends with a discord *." It is indeed another world, wherein our own is reflected, but idealized; and in its struggles and battles no blood flows from the wounded foot-soldier, but celestial ichor from a wounded god. This is triumphantly shown in music –

"Yearning like a god in pain."

as Keats so beautifully says, where the most plaintive melodies – strains that move the heart to tears, are still always tempered into rapture by the pervading spirit of beauty. There is a song in the mind of every true poet which likewise tempers his painful thoughts; and the great poet is nowhere more recognisable than in this song, which gives him free movement in the absurdly called "shackles" of verse. Where ever you discern the "shackles," you may be sure the mind is a captive, and no golden eagle "wantoning in the smile of Jove." You discern the shackles by the "fillings up," by the irrelevancies introduced for the sake of a rhyme, etc.

If this be admitted, it strikes at the root of Wordsworth's theory of poetic diction, since the condition imposed of a beautiful medium, requires that the diction be not "the ordinary language of mankind," but a language fitted to the ideal mouths it issues from; and this must not be done alone by figurative, passionate, or personified phrases, but by an abstraction of all mean and ludicrous words. Certain associations cling round certain words, and the poet must comply with these; if they be ridiculous he must avoid them, because the reader cannot escape the unlucky associations. Suppose a version of the Iliad opening thus –

"John Thompson's wrath to us the direful spring."

Or the 'Orlando Furioso' thus –

"The Wilsons, Smiths, the Wigginses and Browns."

Yet this is scarcely an exaggeration on a sonnet of Wordsworth's, commencing –

"Spade with which Wilkinson has till'd his land!"

[17] Now we defy the reader to be pleasurably moved by Wilkinson; the name is a name "comme un autre," and no doubt denotes many a respectable family, but the gods have not decreed it poetical; on the contrary, its abundant use by comic writers, coupled to its oddity as a sound, have consecrated it to fun, and not to poetry – sonnets least of all. Wilkinson is, therefore, a violation of the ideal. "Achilles' wrath" does very well. Achilles is an ideal personage, of whom, had we previously known nothing, we might predicate what greatness we pleased; but "John Thompson" is the name of our butcher, or who sat next to us in the pit last night, or sent a begging-letter – how can the name denote ideal character? It is useless arguing the point with the public: Harry Gill and Betty Foy do excite the ludicrous, and destroy all impression of poetry. Wordsworth is so insensible to this, or so obstinate in his theory, that he mingles risibilities and puerilities with magnificent and intense poetry.

We have now to consider it in the light of one phasis of a religious Idea.

No nation hitherto known has been without its poetry; but then does this potent universality indicate nothing? has poetry had no other end than the one actually alleged – amusement? or is it true, as is often said, that "the arts spring from the natural propensities of mankind, and fill up the idle hour of the savage as well as that of the more luxurious civilized nation?" This opinion, which could only have arisen in the mind of a dry logician, degrades Art to a mere doll and fancy-fair production; but fortunately the logic is as false as it is degrading. It is a confusion of means with an end. "The pleasure that the organ receives," says Quatremère de Quincey, "is indeed one of the ends of art, since, if that pleasure did not exist, the action of the art itself would be as if it were not. But that such can be its true end, is one of the errors arising from ignorance and thoughtlessness; as well might it be maintained that the pleasure derived from eating is the end of that want, while it is surely nothing more than a means of attaining another pleasure, that of health, strength and the use of our faculties. The pleasure is a means which nature herself has placed as an [18] incentive to those appetites, that lead the way to the accomplishment of all her designs *."

The opinion often advocated in Germany and France, of. "Art for Art's sake," of Art's knowing no end beyond itself, is a little better, but we think equally incorrect, and equally confounding means with an end; for in looking narrowly at the history of poetry, we find everywhere one determinate element and condition, which we hold to be the soul of Art, and this is its religious Idea. Every poet stands at the head of his age at once its child and prophet; and the psalm which breaks solemnly from him, however varied by the music of his feelings, ever retains the one burthen – elevation of the race he addresses into a higher sphere of thought.

"The muse," says Sir Walter Scott, "records, in the lays of inspiration, the history, the laws, the very religion of savages. Hence there has hardly been found any nation so brutishly rude as not to listen with enthusiasm to the songs of their bards, recounting the exploits of their forefathers, recording their laws and moral precepts, and hymning the praises of their deities ." Be it observed, that so far from poetry being the "mirror of ideas eternally true," it must, on the contrary, ever be the mirror of truths of periods, because the poet cannot but see through the medium of his age, cannot see much beyond it, but must inevitably, if he would get a hearing, utter its spirit and wisdom in their highest point. What is truth? how is it to be stamped with eternity? where is its criterion? The truth of today is the doubt of tomorrow; how then can the poet get at this eternal truth? That which alone is eternally true to human cognizance is human passion, and this is the evergreen of poetry. The wild war-song of the savage is undoubtedly poetry; and although the barbarity, cunning and ferocity it praises and inculcates are, to an advanced civilization, very revolting, they are to the savage the highest wisdom. "Celebrare res præclare gestas ac virorum fortium virtutes antiqua fuit Arabibus consuetudo. Neque est ullum poëseos genus utilius: nihil enim est præstabilius quam animum ad virtutes im[19]pellere atque incendere, nihil porro ad eum finem consequendum efficacius, quam ea proferre exempla, quæ lector admiretur et sibi imitanda proponat *." To the same effect the admirable old dramatist –

"How it doth stir the airy part of us
 To hear our poets tell imagined fights,
 And the strange blows that feigned courage gives!
 When I Achilles hear upon the stage
 Speak honour, and the greatness of his soul,
 Methinks I too could on the Phrygian spear
 Run boldly, and make tales for other times."

Homer expressly states, that glorious actions and noble destinies are the substance of poetry ; and Pierre Vidal, the celebrated Troubadour, in his advice to one of his brethren as to the mode of exercising the profession, also teaches this. He considers it as the storehouse of universal philosophy, and the cultivation of high sentiment; that it is the bond of union between heroes, and that the duty of the Troubadour is to awaken in the next generation the high sentiments which had been the glory of their forefathers ; "Even our "Saviour," says Sir Philip Sidney, "might as well have given the moral common-places of uncharitableness and humbleness, as the divine narration of Lazarus and Dives, or of disobedience and mercy, as the heavenly discourse of the lost child and gracious father, but that his thorough-searching wisdom knew that the estate of Dives burning in hell, and Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, would more constantly, as it were, inhabit both the memory and judgment §."

These citations, which might be indefinitely multiplied, are sufficient to show how impressed men have been from all times with the great moral influence of poetry; but this moral influence in final analysis becomes a religious Idea. By a religious Idea we do not mean the formalized religion of the epoch, nor even an acknowledged part of it, but, more Germanico, regard every Idea as partaking essentially of the religious character, which is the formula of any truth leading to new contemplations of the infinite, or to new forms in our [20] social relations. Thus liberty, equality, humanity (the threefold form of this century's mission), are not, so to speak, "doctrinal points" in the formalized religion of the epoch; but inasmuch as they express (in the final analysis) the object and faith of the crusade in which all Europe is now sensibly or insensibly engaged, and as they have to complete a great social end, so may they be considered as eminently religious. We caution the reader against any narrow or exclusive interpretation of our expressions; nor must he be hasty in making his application of them. We admit that the poet does not give to this Idea its naked expression, nor is he even conscious of it; such is the task of the philosopher. Moreover, although we use the word Idea in its highest abstract sense, as expressing potentially the whole spirit of the age, yet we are aware of how many antagonistic different elements it is made up, and consequently each poem will mostly contain but one or more of these elements; not the entire Idea. But this may become clearer after the following remarks.

The most ever-present manifestation in the history of poetry, is its immediate connexion with religion. Hymns, sacred traditions, prayers and passionate aspirings and hopes for the future, form the staple of all antique poetry. "Art," says Dr. Ulrici, "is in its origin ever one with religion – a proof of its Godlike origin, as a mediate and secondary revelation *." Not only in its origin, it is in its essence one with religion; and its deviation from its sacred office, as civilization progresses, is only apparent, for the end of both must ever be one and the same. The end of religion, universally considered, is, not its speculative belief, but its practical result; the translation of that hieroglyphic alphabet of faith into its corresponding symbols of action; thus leading mankind to a higher, purer state of being than the uneducated instincts and unrestrained passions ever could attain. Such is also the end of poetry, pursuing that end however through the Beautiful. It captivates rather than dogmatizes; instead of purifying the soul by means of fasts, penances and prayers, it works its end through the emotions. Religion also works through the emotions, but it must assume the dogmatic, positive form, [21] and must call in to its aid the understanding, i. e. philosophy, thereby addressing the intellect. Majendie defines the passions as "the triumph of the viscera over the intellect;" it is equally the province of religion and poetry to attain the triumph of the moral over the physical man *. "In poetry," says Dr. Lowth, "you have the energetic voice of virtue herself. She not only exhibits examples, but she fixes them in the mind." The learned Michaelis, in his notes on Lowth's 'Hebrew Poetry,' observes, "There are however some poems which only delight, but which are not therefore to be condemned; some which, though they contain no moral precept, no commendation of virtue, no sentiment curious or abstruse, yet dress and adorn common ideas in such splendour and harmony of diction and numbers as to afford exquisite pleasure; they bring, as it were, at once before our eyes the woods and streams, and all elegant objects of nature." Here the learned scholar has not seen deeply enough, he has not reduced these questions to their final analysis; for such poems, without positively, dogmatically teaching any moral truth, yet indirectly establish the end of all morality. The office of poetry is not moral instruction, but moral emulation; not doctrine, but inspiration. The very fact of rendering us enamoured of existence, by pointing out the endless beauties squandered at our feet, and mostly trampled on by our dull preoccupations of business or idleness, is sufficient. Furthermore, all poetry need not be epic, or dramatic; there are glow-worms as well as stars, and as these small but brilliant lights do form a small part of the great nature, so, as before hinted, the various elements which constitute the idea must be represented, reproduced. Even in the sterner forms of religion herself, graceful and joyous hymns are admitted, and constitute indeed a part of the worship. But let us hear Hegel on the object and aim of art.

"It is its object and aim to bring within the circle of our senses percep[22]tions and emotions, everything which has existence in the mind of man. Art should realize in us the well-known saying, 'Nihil humani a me alienum puto'. Its appointed aim is — to awake and give vitality to all slumbering feelings, affections and passions; to fill and expand the heart, and to make man, whether developed or undeveloped, feel in every fibre of his being all that human nature can endure, experience and bring forth in her innermost and most secret recesses; all that has power to move and arouse the heart of man in its profoundest depths, manifold capabilities and various phases; to garner up for our enjoyment whatever, in the exercise of thought and imagination, the mind discovers of high and intrinsic merit, the grandeur of the lofty, the eternal and the true, and present it to our feeling and contemplation. In like manner, to make pain and sorrow, and even vice and wrong, become clear to us; to bring the heart into immediate acquaintance with the awful and terrible, as well as with the joyous and pleasurable; and lastly, to lead the fancy to hover gently, dreamily on the wing of imagination, and entice her to revel in the seductive witchery of its voluptuous emotion and contemplation. Art should employ this manifold richness of its subject-matter to supply on the one hand the deficiencies of our actual experience of external life, and on the other hand to excite in us those passions which shall cause the actual events of life to move us more deeply, and awaken our susceptibility for receiving impressions of all kinds. For we do not here require absolute experience to excite these emotions, but only the appearance (Schein) thereof, which art substitutes for sheer reality. The possibility of this illusion, by means of the representations of Art (Schein der Kunst), rests upon this, that every reality must pass through the representative medium (i. e. that we know things mediately by ideas, not things) before it can be cognised by the mind, or acted on by the will, and therefore it is immaterial whether we are acted on by external immediate reality, or receive our impressions through other means, viz. pictures, signs, or forms, which represent the qualities of this reality. Man can also picture to himself unreal things, as if they absolutely possessed reality. Therefore, whether we receive the impression of a situation, a relation, or the subject-matter of a life, through the medium of external reality, or only through the representation of it, in both cases we are sufficiently affected to sorrow and rejoice, to be moved or agitated according to the nature of the subject, and in both cases we run through, in quick succession, the feelings and passions of anger, hate, pity, anxiety, terror, love, esteem, wonder, honour and fame *."

Art then, we see, is the reproduction of the spiritual world in a beautiful and pleasurable shape; it is the "interpreting tongue" in the fine remark of Horace:

"Format enim natura prius nos intus ad omnem
 Fortunarum habitum; juvat aut impellit ad iram;
 Aut ad humum mærore gravi deducit, et angit:
 Post effert animi motus interprete linguâ."

[23] "For," says Hegel in the same spirit, "even in tears lies consolation. Man, when entirely absorbed in his sorrow, demands at least the outward manifestation of this inward pain. But the expression of these feelings by means of words, pictures, tones and forms is still more softening; and therefore was it a good custom of the ancients to have female mourners at deaths and burials, as it brought grief into contemplation in its external form; or more especially as it showed the mourner his own grief expressed by others. For thus the whole subject of his sorrow would be brought under his view, and he would be compelled, by its frequent repetition, to reflect upon it, and so would be relieved. Thus abundant tears and many words have always been found the surest means of throwing off the overwhelming weight of sorrow, or at least of relieving the oppressed heart."

But while advocating the opinion that poets are and ever have been ἀοιδοὶ σοφοὶ that poetry must have some end beyond amusement, some ideal beyond itself, we must protest against the dogma of its being "a moral teacher," and of always demanding the "moral" of a work of art: such a theory may be very suitable to the select "academies" where youths "receive religious and moral instruction – singlestick if required," or may serve to bind up with Blair's Lectures, but is suitable to nothing else.

"The moral effect of works of ideal art," writes Mr. R. H. Horne, him self both poet and critic, "is humanizing, chiefly because they excite refined emotions without advocating any exclusive or dogmatic moral. Their true mission is to enlarge the bounds of human sympathy. It was universally the custom in this country, till within the last few years, to ask, 'What is the moral of the piece?' The answer was always absurd or infantine; frequently turning upon the 'naughty' parts of the story, some quotation from a school catechism of maxims, or a common proverb, but more commonly one of the ten commandments; which latter, in a Christian country, we should have thought might have been taken for granted, without so many illustrations. What is the moral of Othello? An instructive grandmother would obviously say, unequal marriages are dangerous, or you should not kill your wife from jealousy. What of Lear? We ought not to be unreasonable, exacting and passionate when we grow very old; or we ought to be too prudent to give away all our property before we die *."

And Hegel, who willingly recognises the fact that "Art was the first teacher," argues at some length the untenable and faulty positions occupied with respect to its aim as a moral instructor , contending that all dogma, all philosophy [24] in art, should be implicit, not explicit; admirably observing, "From every genuine work of art a good moral is to be drawn; but then this is a deduction, and indeed entirely depends upon him who draws it." It remains then to be seen what the essential position of poetry specially is, and in how far it may be regarded as "the beautiful phasis of a religious Idea."

Religion, philosophy and poetry, intimately as they are connected, have nevertheless distinct forms of existence, and the distinction is almost universally considered to be one of essence. We hold, on the contrary, that they are but the threefold form of the Idea *, that they are identical (in the philosophical meaning of that term) in their subject-matter, but that the various spheres into which their respective elements have forced them, have caused them to be considered as various in their essence. It has been well shown by Ritter, in his 'Geschichte der Philosophie,' that were religion to acquire a scientific accuracy of statement, it would of necessity cease to be religion, and become philosophy. But religion invariably and necessarily announces its dogmata as at once established and determined by revelation, on the authority of which they possess immediately on their announcement an irresistible claim to assent. Philosophy, on the other hand, draws its assent, its faith from cautious reason; it is continually impelled to comprehend every ascertained result in its dependence and coordination to the universal tendency of reason towards knowledge.

"A toutes les époques de la civilisation règne une pensée obscure, intime, profonde, qui se développe comme elle peut dans l'élément extérieur de cette époque, dans les lois, dans les arts, la religion, lesquels sont pour elle des symboles plus ou moins clairs, qu'elle traverse successivement pour revenir à elle-même, et pour acquérir de soi une conscience et une intelligence complète, après avoir épuisé son développement total. De cette conscience et cette intelligence, elle ne l'acquiert que dans la philosophie. C'est la philosophie qui se charge, pour ainsi dire, de la traduire en une formule abstraite, nette, et précise ."

To this let us add what M. Jouffroy says of poetry and philosophy: –

[25] "The former gives utterance in song to the sentiments of the epoch on the good, the beautiful, and the true. It expresses the indistinct thought of the masses in a manner that is more animated though not more clear, because it feels this thought more vividly, but comprehends it as little. This is comprehended only by philosophy. If poetry comprehended it, poetry would become philosophy, and disappear. The true poets are always children of their age. The philosophers always are so in regard to their point of departure; but as we before said, it is their mission to take the lead of the age, and prepare the way for a future [also the poet's mission]. They share the sentiments — this is their point of departure; they reflect upon them, they comprehend them, they express them — this is their work. Then, and by these means, the epoch comprehends what it loves, what it thinks, what it wishes for; its idea is reduced to a symbol, and with all its power it then tends to its realization."

To a similar effect Carlyle –

"He who should write a history of poetry would depict for us the successive revelations which man had attained of the spirit of nature; under what aspect he had caught and endeavoured to body forth some glimpses of that unspeakable beauty, which in its highest clearness is religion, and which in one or other degree must inspire every true singer, were his theme never so humble *

And Hegel thus explicitly states the relation of the three:

"Art fulfils its highest mission when it has thus established itself with religion and philosophy in the one circle common to all, and is merely a method of revealing the Godlike to man, of giving utterance to the deepest interests, the most comprehensive truths pertaining to mankind. In works of art nations have deposited the most holy, the richest and intensest of their ideas, and for the understanding of the philosophy and religion of a nation, art is mostly the only key we can attain

And finally Shelley, in his most profound and beautiful 'Defence of Poetry,' recently published : –

"Poets are not only authors of language and of music, of architecture, of statuary and painting, they are the institutors of laws and founders of civil society, and the inventors of the arts of life, and the teachers who draw into a certain propinquity with the beautiful and true, that partial apprehension of the agencies of the invisible world which is called religion. Poets, according to the circumstances of the age and nation in which they appeared, were called in the earlier epochs of the world, legislators or prophets. A poet essentially comprises and unites both these characters; for he not only beholds intensely the present as it is, and discovers those laws [26] according to which present things ought to be ordered, but he beholds the future in the present, and his thoughts are the germs of flower, and the fruit of latest time. The most unfailing herald, companion and follower of the awakening of a great people to work a beneficial change in opinion or institution is poetry. Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not; the trumpets which sing to battle and feel not what they inspire. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."

We have cited these passages for the weight of their authority; when we consider how different the men, the nations, the habits of thought, and the philosophy from which they sprung – Ritter, Cousin, Jouffroy, Carlyle, Hegel, and Shelley, it would be difficult to select names more opposed thus agreeing. They all, as it seems to us, felt and expressed very vividly separate portions of the truth; an eclectic patience evolves the whole of the truth, i. e. that "poetry is the beautiful phasis of a religious Idea." The poet must ever be the great teacher of his age; he stands at the altar rapt, holy, impassioned, prophet-like, giving utterance to the inarticulate yearnings, feelings and wants of his brethren; embodying their tendencies, mirroring all and mirrored in all the age produces; the myriad hopes and doubts that sway their minds to and fro, break forth from his lips in passionate music. He speaks in beauty, but mistake not that beauty for his end! Assert no such atheistic, epicurean creed! He makes you in love with the truth and virtue which religion has ordained and philosophy proved; he sets before you splendid pageants of heroic endurance, of patient suffering, of unexampled fortitude and struggling; he reveals the riches lying within you and around you, in the exercise of your soul in the free converse with nature; he points to a future brighter than the past, happier than the present; he couches your eye from the thick film of selfishness, and by keeping the ideal to which all aspire constantly before your eyes, he leads you to the goal of religion, and opens in your heart the wellspring of happiness – happiness which is as the psalm of thanksgiving from man to nature — the realization of that righteousness, of which it is written, "all its paths are pleasantness, and all its ways are peace." Thus the three Ideas of faith, science and virtue become realized in religion, philosophy and art. "Je définis [27] donc la métaphysique l'idée de Dieu, et la poésie le sentiment de Dieu *."

If our theory be false, if there be no idea lying beneath the expression, and if poetry be the mere expression of feeling for feeling's sake, how comes it that all times do not alike produce poets? How is it that poetry arises in cycles, gets its doctrine uttered by half a dozen men, and then slumbers for centuries, to arise again with pristine vigour? Accident is a favourite theory, but an untenable one. Look at history, and see if the indications be not too universal and too regular for accident. It has been repeatedly remarked, that it is not in times of luxurious idleness and fat peace, but in those of conflict and trouble, that the arts have been most flourishing. Look at Athens, that perpetual struggle of men. Look at Italy in the days of Dante and Petrarca, distracted by factions, wars and contentions of all kinds. Look at England under Elizabeth and James (which was the new birth of an era, — Protestantism accepted and believed after its fierce struggle), also after the Rebellion, and after the French revolution. Wherever you cast your eyes, the same phenomenon presents itself. The reason is, that every revolution or internal change is the birth of a creed which is felt by the whole mass; the philosophers have long known the ideas contained therein, but the revolution is the result of the participation of the mass of mankind; the poet arises to utter the collective creed, with its hopes for the future. He does not, as we before hinted, give this Idea its naked expression; and indeed (unless the word poet be used as the abstract and expression of the whole voice of poetry at anytime) he does not either feel or comprehend this Idea in its completeness, but only in one or more phases thereof: hence the necessity for more than one singer; hence Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, Rogers, Campbell, Keats, Moore, [28] Crabbe, etc. were each necessary to the completing of the Idea of their epoch; and hence also the reason of the crowds of imitators, successful and otherwise, who walk in the footsteps of a newly arisen poet. Their inarticulate yearnings and thoughts they have found articulate in his works, and they join their voices in the plaintive wail, the Titanic struggle, or jubilant hope, uttering similar thoughts rather than imitating his. Every man that has a real insight of more or less depth, is something more than an imitator; for he helps to complete that portion of the Idea at which he works. An Idea is not the work of one man, but of many; not of one day, but of an epoch; and each one gives it his own imperfect formula. The great poet may feel it in its totality more intensely than another, but no one man can complete it. If then, as Hegel says, the key to the philosophy and religion of a nation is to be found in its poetry, so we may reverse it, and say that the philosophical Idea of an epoch being given, we have at once the key to its poetry. Indeed no criticism on a past epoch's poetry can be significant without a clear conception of the dominant Idea of that epoch, and it is owing to the neglect of this that so much nonsense has been written on the ancients. Let us not be misunderstood: we repeat again and again, that the poet does not, cannot give the scientific accuracy or expression to the Idea — this is the province of philosophy; but the Idea must ever, in one of its grand or minute phases, be the basis of his poem; and moreover as there are many conflicting Ideas in every epoch, the various poets will severally express them, but the dominant one alone carries immortality with it *.

Holding these opinions, we cannot but look favourably on the fact of the march of intellect having been followed by the diffusion of poetry, and however we may be for the moment irritated at the self-sufficiency and presumption of the dii minores, whose verses manufactured for the day are forgotten on the morrow, and whose "pretensions widen every smile [29] their imbecility excited," because such pretensions must always be ridiculous; yet apart from these, no one, we think, can be indifferent to the daily increasing influence and production of poetry. As religion in earliest times was expounded by a few priests, and was understood by them alone, but has now, through its Christian development, become intelligible and practicable to millions; so poetry, in becoming thus diffused, is developing its mission, widening its influence, and daily becoming a more potent element of life. Most foolish is the cry, "that poetry is dead," or "poetry's a drug." Poetry never dies, never becomes a drug, and least of all now, when every day brings fresh writers, and every day republications in all possible forms and at all prices, of all possible writers. The glory and intense apostolic radiance may have become dim, because there is no new creed to breathe firy inspiration into the nostrils of men, and poetry is occupying herself in the lower province of completing her Idea; but that it exists, that it revels in its superabundant life, can only be denied by those unfortunates for whom the steep of Parnassus remains a steep - the earth crumbling beneath their heavy feet. Nevertheless the meanest cultivator, whether he attain Parnassean eminence or not, has glimpses of that infinite to which all aspire, regards nature with a more penetrating and appreciating eye, looks radically at the soul of man in preference to his conventional trappings, cultivates the affections and sympathies, and developes the philosophy of beauty and happiness more than another. It is nothing to say that he is but an echo or re-echo of others; admitting it, we only thereby assert his relative rank, and negative the probability of his becoming an object of renown; but as far as his own soul is concerned, it is much for him that it is not dead, not wrapped up in the dull atmosphere of self-reference and "respectability," but that the air of heaven can blow freshly on it; that it can admit "the strains of higher mood," which burst from the chorded harps of the great minstrels who have gone before, and filled the world with music unto everlasting time; it is much for him that he can catch up even a distant falling echo of these strains, and temper their celestial harmony to the "ears of the groundlings," who could not otherwise have [30] heard them. Poetry will one day become one of the elements of life – a sixth sense more keen and important than all the rest.

"Ernst ist das Leben, heiter ist die Kunst."

But it is a noble dream, if a dream, to elevate life itself into the spiritual clearness and ideality of Art. Deep and beautiful is the advice of Göthe, that we should "every day hear a little song, see a good picture, read some poetry, and, if possible, talk some sensible words," that we may thus cultivate a harmony of soul, which must eventually express itself in life, and so Montaigne's father used to awaken him in the morning by playing on the flute, in order that he might begin the day with cheerfulness, and one slight beam of beauty. Nevertheless if, as Göthe says, "what we do not understand, we do not possess," so the more poetry becomes a familiar household thing, garnered up in the hearts of the masses, not shut in libraries of the rich, the more necessary it is for us to understand it, unless indeed we regard it as the stars,

"Too high for knowledge, but how near for love! *"

But to understand it is the office of æsthetics and criticism; and if there be any truth in what we have written, a noble office it is. Criticism is the handmaiden to Art, the gentle and affectionate sister (philosophy) comprehending and knowing what poetry feels and utters. But this gentle sister, has some how or other fared most sorrily in this merry and moral England of ours; she has been bullied by her brother, snubbed by her enemies, ill-treated by friends, and poisoned by quacks. Her brother, poetry, (in the form of heaven-descended, unsuccessful genius, in turned-down shirt-collars,) has bullied her in unmeasured terms; "cold criticism," "rules cramping genius," "envy of critics," etc. have been the most courteous terms. With these ingrates who thus ill-use their critics out of a resentful sense of their own short-comings, we shall argue the point about "rules cramping genius," or "learning damping poetic fire," previous to our introducing them to their high-soul'd sister in Germany, [31] from whose Minerva-head streams a light somewhat differing from that of the Minerva-press

We are aware, that in obscure corners originality is supposed to be obtainable through ignorance alone; knowledge, criticism, etc. being mere weights and obstructions to the free exercise of the poetic spirit. This does very well in rhetoric, indifferently so in logic. And then suppose we choose to reject the illustration of "weights" applied to learning, and substitute "wings" for it, is not the whole argument changed? And yet an arbitrary illustration can never affect the truth of the thing. Men are the dupes of epithets. Affix an epithet to your neighbour's actions or sentiments, and they share the fate of the dog in the proverb, and are virtuously hanged. Call reason or understanding "cold," and they become, as by magic, degraded and brutified in the eyes of men; while "warm" imagination or "exalted" fancy are revered by every turn'd-down collar in the kingdom. Epithets are thus made the weapons of bigotry, the shields of conventionality, and the watchwords of superstition!

We insist therefore on an inspection of the epithet "cold," when applied to understanding; we insist on knowledge, rules of art, etc. being no longer called "damps, weights, or obstructions," until further examination. It is merely a dispute about words, as all disputes indeed are; men not looking steadily at the thing, but looking only at their conception of it, and each man insisting on the other seeing with his eyes. Mere verbal learning, or what is usually known as academic learning, can certainly be of no great use to the poet, if he also share the academic reverence for trivialities in μι Learning, in the common acceptation of the word, is the driest, barrenest dust that can be shaken from long-shelved folios, and collected under the skull; but here again that shifty Will-o?-the-wisp, epithet, has led us dancing into a bog, instead of the broad path of reality. Men have consented to call one thing alone "learning," viz. the Greek and Roman literatures. In effect, however, there is learning beyond this, and such, usually called knowledge, the poet must have, if he would gain the world's ear; and the better, if strengthened and refined by an acquaintance with the language and the [32] almost perfect relics of antiquity. Learning is as oil poured upon water, which rests glittering at the top, and can be shown, and its amount estimated, at a moment's notice; but unfortunately without changing the condition of the water itself. Knowledge is as wine poured upon water, which cannot be so readily shown and separated, but which mingles with the water, vivifying it with its own intense life, and changing it into quite another existence. Poets, mistake not oil for wine!

Shakspeare, it is possible, was unable to conjugate a Greek verb without bungling, but that he "was wise in all the wisdom of his time," can be doubted by none. His appetite for knowledge was insatiable, and "grew with what it fed on." Everything was welcome to him, high and low, and was turned to good account. How remarkably this was the case with Göthe we all know. That Homer, the Greek dramatists, Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Tasso, Chaucer, Milton, Spenser, Shelley, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Göthe, Schiller, etc. were all impressed with the necessity of mastering, as far as in them lay, all knowledge, is equally plain; for, in a word, how can he, whose position is at the head of his age, be behind that age?

With regard to that theory invented by idleness and conceit — of rules cramping genius, the chilling effects of criticism, and the necessity for the artist's being ignorant of his art - how does this accord with past experience? Is not a great poem the work of years? Was Dante, who formed his language, careless of his art? Did he not see himself "growing grey" over his Divine Comedy? "Creation, one would think, cannot be easy," says Carlyle; "your Jove has severe pains and fire-flames in the head, out of which an armed Pallas is struggling!" Was Chaucer indifferent to the critical demands of his art? – was Spenser? — was Shakspeare? The biographies of poets give very explicit statements of the labour and study which their poems cost them. Ariosto was twelve years writing his 'Orlando Furioso,' and after it was published, travelled all over Italy to converse with the critics upon it, profiting by their advice; and it will live for more than twelve hundred years. Tasso had a scholar expressly to elucidate Aristotle's 'Poetics,' and [33] studied them with avidity; his own 'Discorsi' on epic poetry show how long and carefully he had meditated the subject. Only look at the question for an instant, and it resolves itself. An artist has a certain aim; to attain this he must use certain means: is he to be ignorant of them for the better employment of them? He must not only ascertain correctly the nature, power and limits of these means, but must apply them to his own wants. Now rules in poetry are nothing more than conclusions arrived at by critics for the best means of attaining this end.

But heaven-descended genius has one immense rock on which it reposes its contented ignorance – one never-failing argument – the Greeks! "The Greeks never wrote with the "fear of critics before their eyes; they had no cold rules "which they were afraid to violate." Such is the confident announcement, such is their rock; unfortunately for them it is no rock, but a mere sand-hill converted into a rock by being viewed through the mist of ignorance, – a mist favourable and familiar to weak eyes. This rock is scattered into air by these two facts, – the Greeks had abundant scientific æsthetical treatises, and they had always a highly critical audience.

The history of Grecian æsthetics has been elaborately treated by Müller, Bode, Ruge, and others *; and although time has left us little beyond the titles of works, yet they alone indicate the advanced state of the science; and when we consider the profound philosophical genius of the people, their acute susceptibilities, and their passionate love of Art, we may be assured that their treatises were not only full of deep speculation, but also of suggestive matter to the artist. One thing strikes us throughout Grecian Art, and that is, the consciousness of its art; the well-considered, elaborated and calculated adoption of materials. Except in Homer, whom we regard, in spite of the critics, as bald, (simple, if they will; but the simplicity of primitive poetry, not the forethought simplicity of Art,) the most glowing burst of poetry with them [34] has not a spontaneous look; and hence Göthe compared Greek Art to a volcano burning beneath a covering of ice; and this "coldness" has been universally felt; nor is the difference of religion and customs sufficient altogether to account for it, since even in sculpture (and that too in the purely human phases of it), which bears least visibly the imprint of a nation's spirit, a certain coldness strikes the be holder at first sight. This is indisputable, and we believe it to be greatly owing to the absence of that spontaneous air which ideal art must induce. These considerations render us very curious on the subject of their æsthetics.

How early Art was regarded by them as an object of speculation, we have no trace. Scattered remarks upon its nature, end and laws are to be found in their oldest poems; but in these we only find an artistic, not a philosophic comprehension of the subject. The philosophers, however, soon opened the field of inquiry, and their results were at length reduced by Pythagoras to mathematical principles. Pindar was instructed by Lasos, author of the oldest work on music possessed by the Greeks *; and Democritus wrote no less than ten treatises, which comprehend almost the whole region of Art; viz. on Poetry, Rhythmus, Harmony, Beauty of the Epic, Homer, Song, Diction, Painting and Perspective. Democritus was the first who opposed the opinion that poetry was a mere facility, which, like rhetoric, could be learnt by repeated exercise; showing it to be a madness (μανία), a being possessed by the God (ἐν θεὸν), the obeying of an in-dwelling, but unconscious and divine impulse ; "for they do not," says Plato , "compose according to any art which they have learnt, but from the impulse of the divinity within them."

Plato's æsthetical views the reader will see collected and expounded in the before-mentioned work of Ruge. We shall only mention the profound insight indicated in the passage at the end of the 'Symposium,' that "the foundations of the tragic and comic arts are essentially the same;" we say indi[35]cated, because he has stated it so loosely, that we cannot accept it in his words. The tragic of necessity contains within itself the comic capability; but the converse does not hold. Passion which suffers, and imagination which irradiates every side of things, saturating the surface as well as piercing to the core, can, from their very intensity and illumination, comprehend in their glance both the congruous and incongruous, the eternal and the accidental, the earnest and the ludicrous. But wit, which sees only the resemblances of surface, or humour, which sees only the incongruities of things, by not undergoing, not seeing all, but only a part of things, can never produce the tragic. For when the congruous or the earnest are known, the incongruous and ludicrous are (according to Kant) also known with them; the departure from the one gives the other. Yet the congruous is not the other aspect of the incongruous, nor does the conception of the latter involve the former; for, the congruous has but one form, the incongruous many. The tragic poet then can be comic: for, conceiving the grandeur of action, he can also conceive the littleness of action: but the comic poet does not necessarily include the tragic, inasmuch as the conception of the littleness of an action does not positively include a clear, pure conception of the grandeur of it.

The treatises of Aristotle and Longinus are too well known to be here spoken of. But Greece perished — the Porch and the Academy were no more; and from that period until 1729, (when nature gave birth to one of her giant pioneers, known to men as Gottlob Ephraim Lessing,) æsthetics slept the long sleep. Dim ghosts occasionally "visited the glimpses of the moon," proclaiming themselves the unmistakeable "buried majesty of Denmark," but they vanished at the cockcrow of inspection. Without waging a bloody and heroic war with the already slain, we may at once assert, that such a thing as æsthetical criticism was not known, and that the treatises then believed in are buried beneath the weight of their own dust. One fact they do represent, viz. that criticism has always been co-existent with Art; and now the question resolves itself into this second one – whether it be better for the artist that criticism should be good or bad? If bad, then stick to your Batteux and Blairs; if good, then [36] must it be sought elsewhere; and English echo answers, "where?"

But here a no less remarkable question presents itself: if Art has done without good criticism so long, what need of it now? No one has put this question, and yet it is a very plausible one. We answer — because Art is the flower of its age; because it must now spring out of a different soil, – a more critical and conscious one. The manifestations of Art in this century cannot possibly be the same as those of any other century; it must use other means, other formulæ, because its audience differ in ideas from any other *. We take it to be the radical error of artists, that they do not distinctly set before themselves not only their object, but the requisitions of the age. Accustomed to live among the works of the past, to breathe their atmosphere, and to consider them as perfection, their whole endeavour is to reproduce those types, which they do in a lifeless, soulless form. They forget, that even in our most unfeigned admiration of those relics of antiquity, we always make allowance for the difference. We have no faith in their ideas, but we see that they themselves had, and it is enough; but when a modern would reproduce those types, he fails: first, and most signally, from a want of faith in the ideas he symbolizes; and, secondly, from our resenting as an untruth, an impertinence, any resurrection of these ideas long buried in the grave of time. His chance of success is proportioned to the relation between the ideas of that time and ours. The true Greek ideas, for example, can never affect us. Those of the middle ages will do so more or less, but never completely. We are aware of the existing cant about the ancients, but are convinced, that if the Minerva, and the Moses of Michael Angelo were produced for the first time by modern artists, precisely the same as they now are, all unprejudiced persons would award the preference to the Moses, though feeling both of them to be incomplete. The connoisseurs, i. e. those who know least but cant most [37] about the matter, would of course detect the Græcism of the Minerva, and so award the preference because it was Greek.

The revival of Art is fondly talked of, passionately hoped for by some, but the means are not so ready at hand. One proposes the abolition of "academies;" another, "severe study of the ancients;" a third, "protection and patronage of government," "et omne quod exit in um, præter remedium!" We do not propose æsthetics as the panacea, but we do firmly believe it to be a very necessary ingredient; for, as we said, this is a critical and conscious age, and its Art must therefore inevitably partake of this spirit. "That which a work of art," says Hegel, "beyond the immediate enjoyment, in these days, should satisfy in us, is our judgment, because we bring under our scrutiny and contemplation the subject-matter (Inhalt) and its representative forms or symbols (Darstellungs-mittel), and the fitness or unfitness of the one to the other. We ask, is the subject good? is the treatment good? and are they mutually conformable? Hence the philosophy of Art is, in our times, much more necessary than it ever was in those times when Art was sufficient in itself as Art *."

That the German poets are critical poets, no one doubts; and although doubts are expressed as to the genius of Göthe and Schiller by some few, gifted with an appreciation of works whose language they do not understand, yet, waving all comparisons, this one truth remains: — they sufficed for their country and epoch; they were the artistic expression of the time, and have had all the influence which poets can attain. This is something; it is worth studying, even if Art be dead. It may be very plausible to talk about the "infancy of nations." being favourable to Art, and of civilization "by enlarging the understanding, thus weakening the influence of imagination," but we hold it to be altogether false and rhetorical. Was the age of Pericles, of Augustus, of Louis XIV., of Elizabeth and James, and of Europe after the French revolution, — was any of these the "infancy of nations?" Were not all the intellectual faculties then in as vigorous play as now? Were not science and philosophy equally at work? What then becomes [38] of the argument about "infancy of nations?" Or, setting these aside, if Art be, as we believe, a social mission; if it be the expression of the age under its emotive and beautiful phases, will it not vary with the age? If it was "imaginative" then, may it not now receive another impress, and still effect its mission? All Ideas are not equally favourable to Art, though, when dominant, they must be equally expressed by it, as indeed they are not equally favourable to humanity. For instance, the dominant Idea of the eighteenth century (i. e. that portion which is known as the eighteenth by reason of its dominant Idea, for towards the close of it began the new era) was analysis, the most fatal of all to Art, inducing "scientific accuracy of statement," whereby it becomes didactic, and ever on the verge of prose; inducing, moreover, the great attention to details, to passages, cramp-versification, and "sober reasonableness." On the other hand, synthesis admits and demands that high mystic expression which feels more than it comprehends, and includes all particulars in the general; hence its intensity. What are the poetic names? In France, Voltaire, J. B. Rousseau, La Motte, Delille, etc. In England, Addison, Pope, and that school. In Germany, Hagedorn, Ramler, Gellert, etc. In Italy, Metastasio. Everywhere mediocrity, mere form and good sense; no high poetic worth, no intense passion, no gospel tidings are to be read there. It was not a poetic epoch: but how comes it, if our theory of the poetic Idea be false, that there was not in all this century one man who could redeem it? Man, they say, draws his inspiration from nature, from his own heart; if so, why did he remain uninspired during this century? Surely nature's face was fresh, as varied, and as beautiful as ever; surely man's heart trembled with passions, his breast swelled with aspirations, and there was woman with her affections; why then did no singer arise and pour forth a strain, which we and all the world recognise as greatly poetic? Because, we repeat, man draws his inspiration from Ideas; those of the eighteenth century were not suited to a poetry different from the one they brought forth – clever, correct, material. Yet the century was great in science, because is a great idea for science: hence it saw Newton, Bernouilli, Clairaut, Maclaurin, Napier, D'Alembert, Laplace, Euler, Lagrange, Humboldt, Herschel, [39] Fourcroy, Galvani, Franklin, Lavoisier, Haüy; and these were great intelligences, and their work was great for humanity. At the same time, the poets who then wrote expressed the spirit of their age, and sufficed for it: that they do not suffice for ours, although detached sentiments, lines, and bits of nature still delight us, is sufficiently apparent.

This, then, being a critical, conscious age, its artists must be critical to fulfil its demands; and aesthetics we take to be one of the means of elevating it out of the "slough of despond;" although it must likewise be emancipated from "commerce", and be placed on its own high pedestal, with real priests at its altars and real faith in its worshippers; — so long as the "commerce of sweet sounds" is the jingling of guineas, little can be hoped for. But that æsthetics, however studied, is able to create artists, we do not for an instant imagine; it can but direct the artistic genius. Æsthetics is the philosophy of Art, and "philosophy," says Solger, "can create nothing; it can only understand. It can neither create the religious inspiration nor the artistic genius; but it can detect and bring to light all that is contained therein *." To create a new and commensurate Art is not in the power of æsthetics; that must come from the new birth of an era; there must be the inspiring Ideas; but as in all the secondary stages men are employed in developing the many phases of the Idea, æsthetics, when perfected, will necessarily direct their energies into the right channels.

And this leads us to the indisputable position of æsthetics: if it be of no assistance to the artist (which we deny), it will render intelligible Art as Art, as well as all existing works; it will enable us fitly to judge of the relics of the past and the productions of the present, and it opens an inquiry in the psychological department of the very highest interest. For these then do we demand a consideration of the subject.

In France, although rapid strides have been taken, and some notable results elicited, it still remains in a fragmentary state. The works of Quatremère de Quincey, however, are equally admirable for their clearness and profundity; yet we believe he is the only systematic thinker who has yet published works of importance. St. Beuve, George Sand, and [40] others evidence profound insight, but only in parts; a whole is still wanting. In Germany it is received as one of the branches of philosophy; has its professors, its treatises and systems, and every man, woman and child is more or less imbued with it. Lessing, Winckelman, Herder, Göthe, Schiller, Kant (Kritik der Urtheilskraft), Schelling, Novalis, the Schlegels, Tieck, Jean Paul, Solger, Hegel, are among the great stars which illumine this atmosphere; but their separate endeavours are too comprehensive to be even mentioned here. Solger and Hegel may both be consulted for the historic portion. Lessing's works, though mostly polemical and directed against the French poetry, yet contain much that is true and admirable for all times; especially the 'Laocoon,' which was translated by Mr. Ross of Edinburgh, an inestimable book to English readers. Winckelman's works are much spoken of, unfortunately little read. The French translation of his. 'History of Art' is unfaithful, and no English translation we believe exists. Jean Paul's 'Vorschule' does not pretend to be systematic, but it contains some charming writing, illustration and close argument. His remarks on wit and humour are well worthy of study. Solger we can recommend but to those who are content to view the matter in its abstract logical shape, unrelieved by applications and illustrations. The essays of Schiller, though rather repulsive at first, from their Kantean rigidity of form, yet contain important ideas, and occasionally go to the very depths of the subject *.

But while all these works are more or less known and talked of in England, the masterly and comprehensive 'Lectures' of Hegel remain without even the most vague and general notice. Professor Gans, in speaking of how widely Hegel's doctrines are spreading in France through Cousin, Michelet, Lerminier, and the St. Simonists, sarcastically says, "and the English buy his works — to put him in their libraries ;" but we fear the Professor's sarcasm falls harmless, and that we do not even buy his works for our shelves. [41] Nevertheless, if any man is worth knowing in the philosophical department, it is Hegel; and towards this knowledge we have no helps, the only slender account being the extremely flippant and shallow one in Menzel's 'Deutsche Literatur *.'

George Frederick William Hegel was born at Stuttgart on the 27th of August, 1770. In his eighteenth year he went to the university of Tübingen to carry out his theological and philosophical studies. He was here a fellow-student with Schelling, for whom he contracted a great esteem; and he always spoke of these days in after-life with great emotion, even when he had become the opponent of his former friend. It was a critical period: the ideas of the eighteenth century, – analysis, materialism, scepticism and dogmatism, on the one hand, and the Kantean revolution on the other; — these were the conflicting philosophies in which he had to struggle. He had also another struggle to make, not of the most metaphysical, though sometimes more puzzling, viz. the struggle for daily bread — not unknown to philosophers! And so our young speculator had to give up high thoughts of professorships and philosophies, and was content (hunger impelling) to accept the humble place of a tutor, first in Switzerland, then in Frankfort. Early in 1801 his father died, and he then moved to Jena, the seat of learning and philosophy, with the property left him (mit einigen ererbten Vermögen), which could not have been large, as we find him, besides working with Fichte and Schelling, in the office of private tutor of philosophy. It was here, in 1801, in the thirty-first year of his age, that he published his first work, 'Differenz der Fichteschen und Schellingschen Philosophie,' in which he sided with Schelling, whom he joined in the editing of the 'Kritischen Journal der Philosophie.' In the second volume of this Journal appeared his celebrated article Glauben ü Wissen, or [42] the reflective philosophy of the subjective as seen in Kant, Jacobi and Fichte. At Jena also he enjoyed the society of Göthe and Schiller; the former, with his usual sagacity, detecting the philosophical genius which lay as yet undeveloped in him, of which more may be read in the 'Briefwechsel zwischen Göthe u Schiller.' Here also he published his 'Phänomenologie des Geistes,' and with it separated himself entirely from the Schelling philosophy, written, it is said, while the French artillery was roaring under the walls at the memorable battle of Jena, as Archimedes pursued his researches during the siege of Syracuse. From Jena he went to Bamberg, where for two years he edited the Bamberg newspaper! Conceive the Times edited by a philosopher! In the autumn of 1808 he was appointed Rector of the Gymnasium at Nürnberg. He here married; and his marriage, instead of impeding, only seemed to give fresh spur to his ambition. With his wife he lived for twenty years in the most perfect happiness, which only ended with her death. In 1812 he published his 'Wissenschaft der Logik.' By logic the Germans mean something far different from our "elements" or "arts." Hegel divides it into two parts: the objective logic, which, being partly the transcendental logic of Kant, is the substitute for the metaphysic of the ancients; and the subjective logic, or the forms of self-consciousness. This work made a great sensation, and he was soon after (in 1816) called to the chair at Heidelberg, where he lectured to crowds of admirers. In 1817 he published his 'Encyclopädie der Philos. Wissenschaften,' the great merit of which was its detailing all his ideas, and that too in a more intelligible form and language than he had hitherto attempted. Here he made acquaintance with Victor Cousin, whose best ideas are taken or modified from Hegel. His reputation had now spread so far, and so many eyes were turned to him as the apostle of the new philosophy, which rank neither Fichte nor Schelling could properly attain, that he was called in 1818 to the chair of Berlin, which he accepted, in spite of the endeavours made by government to retain him. In Berlin he first found his proper sphere; and there, lecturing the first year with Solger, and the subsequent twelve years alone, he modified, developed and finished that philosophy, which is now [43] considered as the final result of German thought. Logic, metaphysic, psychology, jurisprudence, history, religion, history of philosophy and æsthetics, these were the subjects which he chose as the various phases of his philosophy, and in the development of which he passed his life, – a wide range; and when we consider the depth and completeness with which he treated them, perfectly astounding. On the 24th of November (the anniversary of Leibnitz' death), 1831, in the sixty-first year of his age, he expired, after a short attack of cholera. "Hegel," says Professor Gans, and we think with truth, "has left many profound disciples and scholars, but no successor; for philosophy with him accomplished its circle (hat ihren Kreislauf vollendet); its progress is now only possible in the complete development of all that is contained in it, after his method *."

Such were the life and works of Hegel; and whoever looks over the catalogue of his writings will marvel at the exceeding activity of a genius so profound. Nor is his acquaintance with Art, ancient and modern, as seen in his 'Lectures on Æsthetics,' less surprising. Accustomed as we are to the "division of labour" in our learning, and to find men dedicating themselves exclusively to one subject or one phase of it, we are astonished at the large universality of appreciation mixed up with this deep meditative spirit.

The 'Lectures on Æsthetics,' to which our attention is now specially directed, is, we conceive, of all others, that which would most readily be accepted by the English, both on account of its subject, and on account of the comparatively intelligible language in which it is communicated. In these speculations we are struck at the outset with the difference of procedure between the Germans and ourselves. They consider, that as Art is a production, a creation of the mind of man, the real way to set about its examination must be the investigation of those laws of the mind from whence it proceeds; thus they examine the germ to know the physiology of the flower; and thus it becomes itself a branch of psychology. They examine the producing mind; we the work [44] produced. They inquire into its absolute, abstract state; we into its concrete, individual state. With them each work is but as the illustration of a principle; with us it is isolated. An æsthetical view of one drama should furnish the key to all dramas; with us each drama requires a separate examination. The laws, then, of æsthetics, when truly analysed and posited, are immutable; for they are not those of taste and fashion, but the eternal principles of the human mind. But here an obstacle presents itself: rightly to comprehend their æsthetics, you must also comprehend their psychology; and as with this the chances are small that Englishmen will agree, or even understand, a feeling of antagonism will be generated at the outset, – a feeling, however, which a little steady perseverance will soon overcome. We candidly admit that we neither understand every part of Hegel's 'Æsthetik,' nor do we agree generally with German philosophy; but that, nevertheless, Hegel is the most delightful, thought-inciting and instructive work on the subject we have yet met with, and that four years' constant study of it has only served the more to impress us with its depth and usefulness. This is said to encourage those whom it may at first repel; for, unlike the other works, it may be read without any agreement with its first principles; its detached remarks and criticisms, its scientific and elaborate arrangement of the subject, and its treatment of details, may all be received.

The very fact of all these laws being referable to the mind prevents any very great disagreement, since you have only to translate the principle into your own formula, and the thing becomes intelligible. Where you differ, it is mostly with the application of his philosophy to the matter, not on the matter itself.

The work opens with an introduction, in which the nature of æsthetics and its various theories are discussed. Then comes the first part, the à-priori examination of the germ – the Idea. What is meant by this idea (Idee) it is difficult to render intelligible in English. It may assist the student to observe, that the fundamental principle of the Hegelian philosophy is, that the Idea (i. e. the absolute — the ens) determines or manifests itself subjectively (or in the mind of man), as Reason – objectively (or externally), as the universe — the non [45] ego. There are three epochs in the evolution of the Idea. I. It determines itself as quality, quantity, objectively, etc. i. e. Logic. II. It determines itself as the universe, and developes itself in nature. III. It determines itself as mind, cognizant of its prior states. In other words, the Idee is the totality of the universe both of mind and matter, in its unique conception; and this Idee, this Absolute, conceived under the form of thought, is truth; when conceived under the form of nature or of external phænomena, is Beauty. Thus Beauty is spirit contemplating the spiritual in an object. Art is the Absolute incarnate in the beautiful. The germ is in the first part examined: in the second part we have the particular physiology, the development of the ideal in its separate forms; such as the symbol, allegory, etc. (where the mysteries of oriental art are unfolded), the classical, ideal, and the romantic ideal. And, in the third part, the flower itself is examined; i. e. the fine arts in their respective existences, architecture, sculpture, painting, music and poetry; the separate laws of which are methodically unfolded and posited.

It will be obvious, that no further account of such a work is practicable in an article; for how condense a system? It is not a rambling three volumes prepared for the market, and containing a given number of ideas to a given quantity of twaddle, but the fruit, the condensed matter of years of rigorous investigation. Neither can such a work be known by extracts, the common mode of settling these difficulties. We have done our duty therefore, we conceive, in indicating the existence of the work, what it specially treats of, and in what spirit; to those whom it interests more were superfluous – they will study the original. We do not conceal from the reader that he will meet with many obstructions; difficulties of language (this work, however, is generally written in an intelligible, sometimes eloquent style) and of thought; differences of philosophy, and a tendency to what the English call "mysticism" (because they persist in not translating it into their forms of thought); but these obstructions are unimportant, and with courage are soon conquered. If a "light work" be required, if "pleasant critical chat" be wished for, let no one open Hegel; but if an earnest inquiring spirit wishes for the light of a vast and penetrative mind, and does [46] not grudge a little patient study, then we would say – read Hegel. Let none touch it who are not in earnest; it is a sealed book to them, and they will only rise from its non-perusal to gabble about its "German mysticism."

But although it is impossible for us here to give any complete or satisfactory insight into the contents of these 'Lectures,' we may at least extract one or two of those detached criticisms with which, as we said, they abound; and we select the one on the Dutch painters, not because it is the most striking or the most interesting, but because the tendency in England is to underrate these painters, misconceiving the spirit in which they worked.

"The Dutch chose the subjects of their pictures from themselves and from their contemporary and daily life; and it ought not to be objected to them, that they thus again realized (verwirklicht) the present through art. What the present brought before the eye and mind had a pregnant interest for them; and to understand wherein lay this great national interest, we must question their history. The Hollander had, for the most part, made the country he lived in, and was continually struggling against the threatened inundations of that sea whence he had built it. The citizens and the peasants — the mass of the people, had through courage, perseverance and endurance thrown off the Spanish yoke of Philip II., son of Charles V., and then the most mighty ruler of Europe; and, moreover, they had fought for and won their political and religious liberty. It is this citizenship, and the spirit of enterprise in trifles as in great things, in their own country as well as abroad on the wide sea; this careful and decent prosperity; this joyousness and proud self-reliance, all owing to their own energy, which form the universal subject-matter of their paintings. This is no common vulgar subject-matter; nor must we approach it with the elevated nose-in-the-air refinement of courts and politesse. It is a great nationality; and in such vigorous nationality has Rembrandt painted his celebrated Sentinel at Amsterdam, Van Dyck so many of his portraits, and Wouvermann his Troopers; and to this also belong those peasant festivities, jokes, drinkings, rows, boors, etc. In these pictures of marriages, dances, feasts, etc., even when they come to blows, there is always a free, joyous wantonness of spirit hovering over all, and women and girls are there, and the feeling of freedom and animal spirits (ausgelassenheit) penetrates the whole.

"The same with the admirable Beggar Boys of Murillo (in the Munich Gallery). Considered externally, the subject is also one of low life; the mother picks vermin from her boy, who sits quietly eating his bread. In a similar picture, two ragged dirty boys are eating melons and grapes; but amidst this poverty and half-nakedness, their entire indifference, their absence of all care and sorrow, indicates their health and enjoyment. It is this indifference to the external, and this internal freedom, which raises them to the ideal. In Paris there is a portrait of a boy by Raphael; he leans his head [47] idly on his arm, and looks forth on the wide world with such holy, quiet contentedness, that it is almost impossible to tear oneself away from this spiritual health and clearness. Murillo's Boys have the same air. One sees that they have no further interests or ambition; and this is not from mere stupidity, but, happy and contented as the Olympian gods, they loll upon the ground with their luscious fruit; they do nothing; they say nothing: but they are without sorrow, without restless discontent, and we see in them a clear picture of mankind in its brightest state; and in this groundwork of all greatness (spiritual healthiness) we see that everything could be developed from these youngsters. How different is the modern treatment of such subjects!"

From his masterly delineation of the ideal in character, we select the following passages: –

"The ideal demands in a character some peculiar passion which leads him on to determinate aims, resolves and actions. Should, however, this principle be carried too far, the result will be, instead of an individual an abstract form of passion, in which all vitality and subjectivity is lost, and the representation become, as it is often among the French, cold and uninteresting. In the particularity of a character, therefore, one side must appear as the dominant feature, as the centre round which the others play, so that the individual has space given him to develope himself in several situations, and the whole riches of his internal nature are brought into play. Such vitality, notwithstanding the unity and intensity of the dominant passion, is exhibited in the heroes of Sophocles. One may compare them to sculpture from their plastic comprehensiveness. We see in the genuine statues a quiet depth, which admits the possibility of realizing every power if once put into action; the dominant passion is depicted, but the other phases are also indicated. So Shakspeare's Romeo has love for the dominant passion; we see him, nevertheless, in manifold relations to his parents, kindred and friends, in contest with Tybalt, in reverence and confidence to the monk, and even on the verge of the grave in moral conversation with the apothecary from whom he buys the poison, and always noble and elevated by the depth of his emotions. Hence he peculiarity (Besonderheit) of a character must accord and unite with the subjectivity; man must have a precise form, and in this precision (Bestimmtheit) the firmness and power of some dominant passion. If man is not thus in unity with himself; if this passion do not penetrate and be not supported by the other phases of his character (Ist der Mensch nicht in dieser Weise Eins in sich), then are all the manifold phases superfluous, lifeless, senseless. To be in unity with oneself, is that which constitutes the infinite and godlike in art. Thus it destroys the individual unity, when a character, which the power of some great passion elevates to the heroic, is allowed to be ordered or persuaded by an inferior person, or when the crime is rolled off its shoulders on to those of another; for instance, when Phèdre, in Racine, allows herself to be persuaded by Ænone. A genuine character acts from its own volition and persuasion, and admits of no foreign influence. But if it has acted from itself, then will it bear the consequences of its deed."

[48] We hold this last to be true as a rule, but question the illustration. Phèdre is not meant to be a great character, but a weak woman; and this weakness we take to be itself the dominant pathos of her character.

From these extracts the reader will see that Hegel is no pedantic professor, shut up in the classicalities and cant of criticism; although he does not recognise the Dutch and the Spanish painting to be the highest ideal, yet he sees how it fulfils its conditions, and that it is ideal. He sides also with the many against the few critics on the subject of anachronisms.

"A work of art," he says, "and its enjoyment, are not for the antiquary and critic alone, but for the public; and the critics need not carry matters with such a high hand, for they themselves belong to that public; and when honest, they must confess that correctness and severity in historical trifles can even for themselves possess no serious interest. It is from this feeling that the English only give such scenes from Shakspeare as are in themselves admirable and intelligible, because they do not share in the pedantry of our critics, who would fain drag before the public all those antiquated externals in which they cannot possibly interest themselves. Hence, when foreign dramas are put on our stage, the public has a right to demand a certain national revision and alteration to suit their taste. In this respect even the most excellent require revision."

This reproof points to one of the fundamental laws of æsthetics, viz. the temporalities in art; a subject wrapped up in the confusion of prejudice and ignorance, but which must be dragged out of its darkness and clearly discussed before any step can be taken in the judgment of the past; and it is owing to this law never having been developed and applied to the purposes of criticism, that so much folly has been written about the ancients and earlier poets. A most valuable and interesting essay might be written on the 'Variation of Æsthetic Feeling in the different Epochs of Poetry,' which would indeed be the application of the above law. For example, the treachery of Ulysses * is to us most revolting; to the Athenian audience it was highly crafty, and commendable as craft; – it was æsthetic. So when Shakspeare makes the charming Celia fall in love with and marry the repentant villain Olivert , to an audience of his day, accustomed to the tone of [49] romantic literature, wherein sudden conversions and love at first sight abounded, this was æsthetic, though to us most painful. We prefer Hector to Achilles; not so the Greeks. When Göthe treated in Iphigenie the same subject as Euripides, he was forced to introduce new feelings and new ethics: the Greeks would have laughed at her scruples of honour; Christians would have shuddered at the Greek treachery. It is owing to the neglect of this branch of inquiry that such utterly false criticisms are written on Calderon; critics mistake the Catholic element he breathed, the Catholic audience he addressed. Such an essay should contain potentially the whole history of poetry; and it is from the want of it that no history of poetry yet written is really critical. To write such a history, a man must, as Schlegel says, "possess an universality of mind; a flexibility, which, throwing aside all personal predilections and blind habits, enables him to transport himself into the peculiarities of other ages and nations, and feel them, as it were, from their central point *."

We have now performed our task of introducing Hegel and German æsthetics to our readers; more we could not do – more we did not attempt: to such as are interested in the subject we hope it will be sufficient.

 

 

[Die Anmerkungen stehen als Fußnoten auf den in eckigen Klammern bezeichneten Seiten]

[3] * To say nothing of the Quarterly and Monthly Journals, the essays in which, from time to time, betray their German origin – the Times has quoted Hegel. The Spectator has had articles on Æsthetical Economy – and in the Atlas for the 20th March, the question is asked, "Why is there no Professor of Æsthetics at Oxford?"   zurück

[6] * On Imitation in the Fine Arts.   zurück

[6] † Hegel's theory of language quite settles this point. We will only select one position. The name, according to him, has the same value as the representation, and it supplies its place in memory. Pronounce the name of a lion, and there is no need of the image of a lion, the name being the intellectual existence of the thing.   zurück

[6] ‡ Burke, 'On the Sublime and Beautiful.' A book undeservedly neglected. If some of his theories be false, there are, nevertheless, admirable remarks scattered through it.   zurück

[6] § Vide Burke, 'On the Sublime,' Part II. Sec. 3, 4, 5; and Part V. Sec. 5, 6, 7.   zurück

[7] * Monthly Repository, vol. vii. p. 63.   zurück

[8] * Monthly Repository, vol. vii. p. 60.   zurück

[9] * Göthe's Correspondence with a Child, vol. ii.   zurück

[11] * Solger, Æsthetik, 3ter Theil, 2ter Abschnitt.   zurück

[13] * Æsthetik, b. iii. p. 289.   zurück

[14] * This has been irrefutably put by a contemporary. "All emotion which has taken possession of the whole being – which fiows irresistibly, and therefore equably – instinctively seeks a language that flows equably like itself, and must either find it, or be conscious of an unsatisfied want, which even impedes and prematurely stops the flow of feeling. Hence, ever since man has been man, all deep and sustained feeling has tended to express itself in rhythmical language, and the deeper the feeling, the more characteristic and decided the rhythm, provided always the feeling be sustained as well as deep. For a fit of passion has no natural connexion with verse or music; a mood of passion the strongest." – Westminster Review, April 1838, p. 42.   zurück

[15] * Monthly Repository, vol. vii. p. 64.   zurück

[16] * Vorschule der Æsthetik, b. i. And Shelley, "Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted."Defence of Poetry.   zurück

[18] * On Imitation in the Fine Arts, Transl., p. 180.   zurück

[18] † Introduction to Border Minstrelsy.   zurück

[19] * Sir W. Jones's Poes. Asiat., cap. xvi.   zurück

[19] † Compare Il. vi. 358; Od. iii. 204, xxiv. 197, &c.   zurück

[19] ‡ Sismondi's Lit. du Midi, i.; see also Millot, ii. p. 283.   zurück

[19] § Defence of Poesy.   zurück

[20] * Ulrici, Shakspeare's Dramat. Kunst., p. i.   zurück

[21] * We have before cautioned the reader against narrow interpretations of our expressions. By religion here we do not mean the Christian only, but every religion of which we have knowledge. We are here neither confounding nor separating the true from the false, but simply stating to what all equally pretend. In the same way we speak of all poetry, not of any one class or of any one period. Indeed our speculations are purely abstract.   zurück

[22] * Æsthetik, b. i.  Einleitung, p. 60.   zurück

[23] * 'Essay on Tragic Influence,' prefixed to his noble tragedy of Gregory VII.   zurück

[23] † Vide Æsthetik, i.  Einleitung, p. 66–73.   zurück

[24] * Hegel's Grund-princip is very similar, though we met with it long after our own was elaborated, and the coincidence is curious. He says, "Bei dieser Gleichheit des Inhalts sind die drei Reiche des absoluten Geistes nur durch die Formen unterschieden, in welchen sie ihr Objekt, das Absolute, zum Bewusstseyn bringen."   zurück

[24] † Cousin, Cours de Phil., i.   zurück

[24] ‡ Essays on Philos. of Hist.   zurück

[25] * Miscellanies, vol. ii. p. 256.   zurück

[25] † Æsthetik, b. i.  Einleitung, p. 2.   zurück

[25] ‡ 'Essays and Letters from Abroad;' a work no admirer of the poet should be without.   zurück

[27] * George Sand, 'Les Sept Cordes de la Lyre.' And Hegel says, "Da wir von der Kunst als aus der absoluten Idee selber hervorgehend gesprochen, ja als ihren Zweck die sinnliche Darstellung des Absoluten selber angegeben haben," which is the metaphysical expression of our opinion, "the representation of the godlike, or of the idea," seems the very formula wanted; and the hervorgehend, does it not also express the varieties, i. e, nature (Idee) working through her various gradations and phases, and thus presenting different aspects, to which artists successively give die sinnliche Darstellung?   zurück

[28] * It will have been apparent that we have used the word 'Idea' in its European philosophical sense, as the synthetical expression of each great element of the spirit of the age. Thus analysis was the dominant Idea of the eighteenth century; humanity (liberty, progression) of the nineteenth. Feudalism, monarchism, protestantism, catholicism, etc. are but formulas which we name Ideas.   zurück

[30] * Vivia Perpetua.   zurück

[33] * Vide Müller, 'Geschichte der Theorie der Kunst bei den Alten' (a work much valued, but which we have been unable to consult). Bode, 'Gesch. der Hellenischen Dichtkunst;' the introduction to which contains a short but elaborate account of the different critical theories; and Ruge, 'Platonische Æsthetik.'   zurück

[34] * Suidas, 227.   zurück

[34] † Hor. ad Piso, 295; Cicero de Divin., i. 34. This is the φύσις θεάζουσα (Dio. Chrys. 35), ἐνθουσιασμὸς καὶ ἱερὸν πνεῦμα (Clem. Alex.), which Democritus demands of the real poet, and which he, like Plato, expressed by poetical madness.   zurück

[34] ‡ Ion.   zurück

[36] * Hence the above question is half answered. However we may admire Shakspeare, Spenser, Dante, etc., one thing is certain, that they fulfilled the critical demands of their age, not of ours; were their poems to appear tomorrow, they would be universally condemned as irregular, crude and deficient in art. To us they are classics.   zurück

[37] * Æsthetik, b. i. 16.   zurück

[39] * Solger, Æsthetik, p. 9.   zurück

[40] * See in particular 'Uber das Pathetische;' 'Uber Naive, u. Sentimentalische Dichtung;' 'Uber das Erhabene;' and 'Uber den gebrauch des Gemeinen und Niedrigen in der Kunst;' the last-named was translated in the 'Monthly Chronicle' for February 1841.   zurück

[40] † Vermischte Schriften, ii. 257.   zurück

[41] * This book has been recently translated under the false title of a 'History of German Literature.' We must enter our protest against it, as we think it very calculated to do harm to the students of German literature, by giving them prejudicial, false and flippant views. We should say the book is worthless; for it neither gives information nor opinion worth attention. Menzel has a shallow, dashing assurance; a ready, often eloquent pen, and an imposing dogmatism, which delude people at first, but if subjected to any scrutiny, his poverty betrays itself. His hatred towards Göthe, Voss, Hegel, as well as all Berliners, is of itself sufficient to show how prejudiced are his opinions.   zurück

[43] * Vermischte Schriften, b. ii. p. 251. To this, to the 'Biographie Universelle,' and to the 'Conversations Lexicon,' we are indebted for the particulars of the above account.   zurück

[48] * Sophoc. Philoctetes.   zurück

[48] † 'As you Like it.'   zurück

[49] * Dramatic Literature, vol. i. p. 3.   zurück

 

 

 

 

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The British and Foreign Review; or, European Quarterly Journal.
Bd. 13, 1842, Nr. 25, Januar, S. 1-49.

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Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).


The British and Foreign Review   online
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000520355

The British and Foreign Review   inhaltsanalytische Bibliographie
The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, 1824-1900.
Hrsg. von Walter E. Houghton. Bd. 3. Toronto 1979.

 

 

Zeitschriften-Repertorium

 

 

 

Literatur

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Herausgegeben von H. G. Hotho. Zweiter Band
(= Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's Werke. Vollständige Ausgabe durch einen Verein von Freunden des Verewigten.
Zehnter Band. Zweite Abtheilung).
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Zehnter Band. Dritte Abtheilung).
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Edition
Lyriktheorie » R. Brandmeyer