ページの画像
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

accordingly been the favourite subjects of poetical description in all countries.

From colour we proceed to figure, which opens to us forms of beauty more complex and diversified. Regularity firit occurs to be noticed as a source of beauty. By a regular figure, is meant, one which we perceive to be formed according to fome certain rule, and not left arbitrary, or loose, in the conitruction of its parts. Thus, a circle, a {quare, a triangle, or a hexagon, please the eye, by their regularity, as beautiful figures. We must not, however, conclude, that all figures pleale in proportion to their regularity; or that regularity is the fole, or the chief, foundation of beauty in figure. On the contrary, a certain graceful variety is found to be a much more powerful principle of beauty; and is therefore studied a great deal inore than regularity, in all works that are designed merely to please the eye. I am, indeed, inclined to think, that regularity appears beautiful to us, chiefly, if not only, on account of its suggesting the ideas of fitness, propriety, and use, which have always a greater connexion with orderly and proportioned forms, than with those which appear not constructed according to any certain rule. It is clear, that nature, who is undoubtedly the most graceful artist, hath, in all her ornamental works, pursued variety, with an apparent neglect of regularity. Cabinets, doors, and windows, are made after a regular form, in cubes and parallelograms, with exact proportion of parts ; and by being so formed, they please the eye ; for this good reafon, that, being works of use, they are, by luch figures, the better suited to the ends for which they were designed. But plants, flowers, and leaves are full of variety and diversity. A straight canal is an infipid figure, in comparison of the incarders of rivers. Cones and pyramids are beautiful;

but trees growing in their natural wildness, are infinitely more beautiful than when trimmed into pyramids and cones. The apartments of a house must be regular in their difpofition, for the conveniency of its inhabitants'; but à garden, which is designed merely for beauty, would be exceedingly disgusting, if it luad as much uniformity and order in its parts as a dwelling house.

Mr. Hogarth, in his Analysis of beauty, has observed, that figures, 'bounded by curve lines, are, in general, more beautiful than thofe bounded by straight lines and angles. He pitches upon two lines, on which, according to him, the beauty of figure principaily depends ; and he has illustrated and supported his doctrine, by a surprising number of instances. The one is the waving line, or a curve bending backwards and forwards, fomewhat in the form of the letter S. This he calls the line of beauty; and fhows how often it is found in shells, flowers, and such other ornamental works of nature ; as is common also in the figures designed by painters' and sculptors, for the purpose of decoration. The other line, which he calls the line of grace, is the former waving curve, twilted round some solid body. The curling worm of a comnion jack is one of the instances he gives of it. Twisted pillars, and twisted horns, also exhibit it. Iar all the instances which he mentions, variety plainly appears to be fo material a principle of beauty, that he seems not to err much, when he deines the art of drawing pleasing forms, to be tire art of varying well. For the curve line, fo much the favourite of painters, derives, according to hin, its chief advantage, from its perpetual berding and variation from the stiff regularity of the feraight line.

Motion furnishes another fource of beauty, diftinct froin figure. Motion of itelf is pleafing ; 'ard bodies in motion are, “cæteris paribus,” preferred

to those in rest. It is, however, only gentle motion that belongs to the beautiful ; for when it is very lwift, or very forcible, such as that of a torrent, it partakes of the sublime. The motion of a bird gliding through the air, is extremely beautiful : the swiftnels with which lightning darts through the heavens, iş magnificent and astonishing. And here, it is proper to observę, that the sensations of fublime and beautiful are not always distinguished by very distant boundaries ; but are capable, in several instances, of approaching towards each other. Thus, a smooth, running stream is one of the most beautiful objects in nature : as it swells gradually into a great river, the beautiful, by degrees, is lost in the lublime. A young tree is a beautiful object ; a spreading, ancient oak is a venerble and a grand one. The calmness of a fine morning is beautiful ; the universal stillness of the evening is highly sublime. But to return to the beauty of motion, it will be found, I think, to hold very generally, that motion in a straight line is not so beautia ful as in an undulating, waving direction ; and motion upwards is, commonly, tco, more agreeable than motion downwards. The easy curling mos tion of flame and finoke may be instanced, as an object singularly agreeable : and here mr. Hogarth's waving line recurs upon us as a principle of beauty. That artist observes very ingeniously, that all the common and necessary motions for the business of life, are performed by men in straight. or plain lines : but that all the graceful and ornamental movements are made in waving lines ; an observation not unworthy of being attended to, by all who study the grace of gesture and action.

Though colour, figure, and motion, be separate principles of beauty ; yet in many beautiful objects, they all meet, and thereby render the beauty both greater, and more complex. Thus, in flowers,

trees, animals, we are entertained at once with the delicacy of the colour, with the gracefulness of the figure, and sometimes also with the notion of the object. Although each of these produce a separate agreeable sensation, yet they are of such a fim iar nature, as readily to mix and blend in one general perception of beauty, which we ascribe to the whole object as its cause : for beauty is always conceived by us, as something residing in the object which raises the pleaiant sensation ; a fort of glory which dwells upon, and invests it. Perhaps the most complete afsemblage of beautiful objects that can any where be found, is presented by a rich natural landscape, where there is a fufficient variety of objects : fields in verdure, scaitered trees and flowers, running water, and animals grazing. If to these be joined, some of the productions of art, which suit such a scene-as a bridge with arches over a river, smoke rising from cottages, in the midst of trees, and the distant view of a fire building feen by the rising fun—we then enjoy, in the higheit perfection, that gay, cheerful, and placid sensation which characterises beauty. To have an eye and a talte formed for catching the peculiar Leauties of such scenes as these, is a neceffary requisite for all who attempt poetical description.

The beauty of the human countenance is more complex than any that we have yet confidered. It includes the beauty of colour, arising from the delicate shades of the complexion ; and the beauty of figure, arising from the lines which form the different features of the face. But the chicf beauty of the countenance depends, upon a mysterious expression, which it conveys, of the qualities of tlie mind; of good sense, or good humour; of spright? liness, candour, benevolence, sensibility, or oiher amiable difpofitions. How it comes to pafs, that a certain conformation of features. is conneded in our

Α Ο

T

idea with certain moral qualities; whether we are t'ilght by instinct, or by experience, to form this Comexion, and to read the mind in the countenance; belonys not to us now to enquire, nor is indeed ealy to resolve. The fact is certain, and acknowBudged, that what gives the human countenance its moit distinguihing beauty, is what is called its exprelion; or an image, which it is conceived to fhow, of internal moral dispositions.

This leads us to obferve, that there are certain qualities of tlie'inind, which, whether expreffed in the countenance, or by words, or by actions, always raise in us a feeling similar to that of beauty. There are two great clafles of moral qualities; one is of the nigh and the great virtues, which require extraordinary efforts ; and turn upon dangers and sufferings ; as heroism, magnanimity, contempt of pleafures, and conteinpt of death. These, as I have observed in a former lecture, excite in the spectator an emotion of sublinity and grandeur. The other class is generally of the focial virtues, and such as are of a fofter and gentler kind; as compaflion, mildnels, friend!hip, and generosity. These raise in the beholder a sensation of pleasure, so much akin tot!ut produced by beautiful external objekts, that, though of a more dignified nature, it may, without inpropriety, Le claffed under the fame head.

A fpecies of beauty, distinct from any I have yet mentioned, arises from design or art ; or, in otoer words, from the perception of means being atated to an end ; or the parts of any thing being well fitted to answer the delign of the whole. When, in considering the structure of a tree or a plant, we observe, how all the parts, the roots, the item, the bark, and the leaves, are suited to the growth and nutriment of the whole-much more when we survey all the parts and members of a living animal-or when we 'examine any of

« 前へ次へ »