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legitimately essay, and victoriously achieve, the most daring innovations in this almost forbidden field, into which few beside Michael Angelo and Roubilliac, among the moderns, have set a foot, without trembling hesitation or ignorant presumption, either of which must have ensured miscarriage. The Laocoön and the friezes of the Parthenon are trophies of ancient prowess in this perilous department, which, instead of being the despair, ought to be the assurance of hope to adventurers in a later
and colder clime, among a people more phlegmatic than the gay Greeks or the spirited Italians.
. When a new Pygmalion shall arise, he will not be content to say to his statue, with the last stroke of the chisel, “ Speak," but he will add “ Move."
Be this as it may, — beauty, intelligence, strength, grace of attitude, symmetry of limb, harmonious grouping, simple, severe, sublime expression, the soul informing the marble, the personal character stamped upon the features, these are the highest attempts of the highest minds, in the highest of the imitative arts. It follows, that mediocrity is less tolerable in sculpture than in painting, music, and even poetry itself. Nothing in it is truly excellent, but that which is pre-eminently so; because nothing less than the most successful strokes of the happiest chisel can powerfully effect the spectator, fix him in dumb astonishment, touch his heart-strings with tender emotion, or stir thought from its depths into ardent and earnest exercise. I appeal to all who hear me, whether, among a hundred of the monuments in our cathedrals, and the statues in our
public places, they ever met with more than one or two that laid hold of their imagination, so as to haunt it both in retirement and in society, - or, most unexpectedly to
flash upon that inward eye, Which is the bliss of solitude;
WORDSWORTH. for even in crowds, in business, in dissipation, what has intensely appealed to our sympathy on first acquaintance, will often recur in the image-chamber of the mind. Thus, after the first hearing, will certain strains of music; thus, after the first sight, some masterpiece of painting ; and frequently, far more frequently than either of these, after the first reading, will lines, and phrases, and sentiments of poetry, ring in the memory, and play with the affections: but rarely indeed in sculpture does the image presented to the eye become a statue of thought in the mind. This may be principally owing to the paucity of subjects (I mean as the art is now practised), and, to an uninitiated eye at least, the similarity of treatment by ordinary adepts, whether single figures or monumental groups. When, however, (to use a strong metaphor) at the touch of some Promethean hand, a statue steps out of this enchanted circle, and looks as though it had grown out of the marble in the course of nature, without the aid of hands; then indeed does the artist enrich the beholder with one of the rarest treasures that genius can bequeath to contemporaries or posterity; and for which the willing yet exacted homage of applause will never cease to be paid,
while his work endures. Such are the Apollo Belvidere, the Venus de' Medici, and other inestimable relics of antiquity; such the Moses and David of Michael Angelo; and such (to give an English example worthy to be named with these; judging solely by the power which it exercises over the purest and most universal of human sympathies, – sympathies which can no more be bribed by artifice than they can help yielding to the impulse of nature)—such, I say, is the simple memorial, by our own Chantrey, in Lichfield Cathedral, of two children, that were
lovely in their lives, and in death are undivided.” Of these specimens, it may be affirmed, that they have shown how the narrow bounds of vulgar precedent may be left as far behind, as a star in the heavens leaves a meteor in the air. Of the antiques alone, how innumerable has been the progeny generated from creative minds, following them less by imitation than by rivalry, and borrowing nothing from them but elemental principles ; with this grand advantage, which can less strictly be said to belong to models in any other polite art, namely, that what could be done, but not surpassed, had been shown; leaving not a mere ideal excellence to be attained, but the perfect example of all that the eye could desire, the imagination conceive, or the hand execute.
Now, poetry is a school of sculpture, in which the art flourishes, not in marble or brass, but in that which outlasts both,- in letters, which the fingers of a child may write or blot, but which, once written, Time himself may not be able to obliterate; and in
sounds, which are but passing breath, yet being once uttered, by possibility, may never cease to be repeated. Sculpture to the eye, in palpable materials, is of necessity confined to a few forms, aspects, and attitudes. The poet's images are living, breathing, moving creatures; they stand, walk, run, fly, speak, love, fight, fall, labour, suffer, die, - in a word, they are men of like passions with ourselves, undergoing all the changes of actual existence, and presenting to the mind of the reader, solitary figures, or complicated groups, more easily retained (for words are better recollected than shapen substances), and infinitely more diversified, than the chisel could hew out of all the rocks under the sun. Nor is this a fanciful or metaphorical illustration of the pre-eminence which I claim for the art I am advocating. In proof of it, I appeal at once to the works of the eldest and greatest poets of every country. In Homer, Dante, and Chaucer, for example, it is exceedingly curious to remark with what scrupulous care and minuteness personal appearance, stature, bulk, complexion, age, and other incidents, are exhibited, for the purpose of giving life and reality to the scenes and actions in which their characters are engaged. All these are bodied forth to the eye through the mind, as sculpture addresses the mind through the eye.
In sculpture, nothing is less impressive than the allegorical personages that haunt cenotaphs, and crowd cathedral walls; for, however admirably wrought, they awaken not the slightest emotion, whether they weep, or rage, or frown, or smile. In poetry, likewise, as may be shown hereafter, ex
panded allegories are the least effective of all the means by which terror, wonder, pity, delight, or anger, are attempted to be excited; yet with single figures frequently, and with small groups occasionally, under the guise of metaphors and similes, poetry of every kind is peopled more splendidly, beautifully, and awfully, than was the Grecian Olympus with gods and heroes, the ocean with nymphs and nereids, and Tartarus with furies, spectres, and inexorable judges. Two or three brief specimens may decide the superiority of verse in this field of competition. How could the image of Fear, which “to and fro did fly," be realised in marble as it has been by Spenser in rhyme ? Collins's odes are galleries of poetical statuary, which no art could give to the sight, though perfectly made out in the sensorium of the brain.
Danger, whose limbs of giant mould,
What sculptor's hand could arrest this monster, and place him in one attitude, which should suggest all the ideas expressed in these wonderful lines ? - his “ limbs of giant-mould,” — his stalking, howling, casting himself prone, and falling asleep; — with the accompaniments of the “midnight storm," " the ridgy steep,” “the loose, hanging rock ;” and, above all (perhaps), the mortal “eye” vainly attempting to