Page images


wonderful productions of art, to muse upon though quite as common, and equally nathat little picture again, and again, when all | tural, is not so generally understood. The but ourselves have passed it by without a room may be the least commodious in the thought

house, the table the least convenientthe It is not, however, the earliest impressions chair the least easy, yet they are valued made upon the mind which are always the not the less, because they are associated most lasting or vivid. We are all subject with the image of one who was more dear, to the influence of strong and overpowering perhaps more dear than any one will ever associations with circumstances which occur be again. in after life, and of which we retain a clear I have known the first wild rose of sumrecollection. We are apt to be deeply, yet mer gathered with such faithful recollecdifferently affected by certain kinds of music. tions, such deep and earnest love, such In the same apartment, and while the same yearnings of the heart for by-gone pleasures, air is sung or played by a minstrel un that for a moment its beauty was obscured conscious of its secret power, and some of the by falling tears. The tolling of a bell after audience will be thrown into raptures of de- it has been heard for a departed friend, bas light, applauding and calling forth the strain a tone of peculiar and painful solemnity. again with unabated enjoyment; while one, The face of one whom we have met with in whose sad heart the springs of memory comparative indifference in a season of hapare opened, will turn away unnoticed in that piness, is afterwards hailed with delight happy crowd, to hide the tears which the when it is all that remains to us of the past. thoughts of home and early days, when that The pebble that was gathered on a distant strain was first heard, have called forth from shore, becomes valuable as a gem when we the

eyes of a stranger in a strange land. “If know that we shall visit that land no more. I might always listen to that tune," There is no sound, however simple or sweet claims one, “I should never know unhappi- that may not be converted into discord when ness again!" Spare me that song of it calls up jarring sensations in the mind; mirth," is the secret prayer of the stranger; nor is there any melody in nature compara“it belongs to my own country. It tells me ble to the tones of the voice that has once of the beauty and gladness of my native land. spoken to the heart. Spare me that song of mirth; for my heart Rosseau wept on beholding the little comis sorrowful, and I am alone.”

mon flower that we call periwinkle. He Innumerable are the instances of daily, wept because he was alone, and it reminded and almost hourly occurrence, in which we him of the beloved friend at whose feet it perceive that some particular tone of feeling had been gathered. I remember being afis excited, but know not whence it takes its fected by this cumstance at a very early rise; as we listen to the wild music of the age, and the association has become so Æolian harp, that varies perpetually from powerful, that, in looking at this flower, I one melody to another. We see the thrill always feel a sensation of melancholy, and ing chords, we hear the sweet and plaintive persuade myself that the pale blue star, half sound, but we know not with all our wisdom concealed beneath the dark green leaves, is what particular note the unseen minstrel like a soft blue eye that scarcely ventures to will next produce, nor can we calculate the look up from beneath the gloom of sorrow. vibrations caused by his powerful but invisi The crowing of the cock is generally conble hand.

sidered a lively and cheering sound; yet I When we hear the tender and affectionate knew one, who for many years could not expression, “I love this book because it was hear a cock crow at midnight without senmy mother's,” we know at once why a book sations of anguish and horror, because it had approved by a mother's judgment should be once been painfully forced upon her notice valued by a child; but when we hear any while she was watching the dead. one say, “I prefer this room, this table, or A gentleman of my acquaintance, in speakthis cbair, to all others, because they being to me of his mother's death, which was longed to my mother,” the expression sudden and unexpected, described the day

on which this event took place, as one of to one or two, but from which all others are those periods in our existence when the shut out. Books are selected, and read mind seems incapable of feeling what it aloud to those who will not listen. Pictures knows to be a painful truth. He had re are exhibited to those who cannot see their tired to rest, with an indistinct idea of what beauty. Pleasures are proposed, which had occurred, but remained unable to realize from their want of adaptation, are converted the extent of his calamity. It had been his into pain. Kind intentions are frustrated; mother's custom to take away his candle and the best endeavours to be agreeable, every night-perhaps to breathe a prayer rewarded with disappointment and ingratiat his bed side. As he laid his head upon tude. In short, for want of that discriminathe pillow, he saw the light standing as ting, versatile, and most valuable quality usual, but no gentle form approached, and which mankind have agreed to call tact. in an instant he felt the full force of his be- and which might be fancifully described as reavement. He was setting off in life with the nerve of human society, many opportubrighter hopes than fall to the lot of many; nities of enjoyment are wasted, many good but that first and purest of earth's blessings people are neglected, and many good things -a mother's love, was lost to him for ever. are irrevocably lost.

Associations of this kind, however, are not It would be hard indeed if we might not such as constitute the fittest subjects for the indulge our individual fancies, hy each poet; because, from their local or particular mounting the hobby we like best. The abnature, they excite no general interest. surdity consists in compelling others to ride They may be powerful in the mind of the with us, in forcing our favourites upon their writer, but will fail to awaken in other minds regard, and expecting from them the same a proportionate degree of feeling; except tribute of admiration which we ourselves when the sensible object, or particular fact bestow. There is no moral law to prevent described, is introduced merely as a medium our being delighted with what is repulsive for subjects of a nature to be generally felt to others; but it is an essential part of good and understood, such as memory, hope, or manners, to keep back from the notice of love. Thus, the Poet may properly address society such particular preferences-a great an object of which he alone perceives the proof of good taste, so to discipline our feelbeauty, or describe a circumstance of which ings, that we derive the most enjoyment he alone feels the pathos, provided he does from what is generally pleasing. not dwell too long upon the object or circumstance, merely as such, but carries the mind onward, by some ingenious association, to recollections which they naturally recall, hopes which were then cherished, or love,

GENERAL ASSOCIATIONS. whose illimitable nature may be connected with all things lovely. By dwelling exclu In turning our attention to the subject of sively upon one subject of merely local inter- general associations, we enter upon a field est, and neglecting such relative ideas as so wide and fertile, that to select suitable are common to all, the most egregious blun- materials for examination appears the only ders, in matters of taste, are every day com- difficulty. All our most powerful and submitted. Witticisms are uttered, which, how

lime ideas are common to mankind in a civever entertaining to those who know to what ilized state, and arise in the minds of countcircumstances they owe their value, excite less multitudes from the same causes. By no corresponding risibility in the wondering the stupendous phenomena of nature, as well or insensible hearers. Anecdotes are re as by the magnificent productions of art, we lated, which, from being out of place or ill are all affected according to our various detimed, seem to fall from the lips of the grees of capability in precisely the same speaker as a wearisome and empty sound. manner. We all agree in the impressions Subjects of conversation are introduced in we receive from extreme cases, whether mixed society, perhaps, intensely interesting they belong to the estic

the minute;

and no one who retained the possession of draw upon when occasion may require, or his reason would be excited to laughter by a as a secret lamp from which he may somethunder storm, or to awe and reverence by times borrow light to rekindle his imaginathe tricks of a merry-andrew. But there are tion, launches forth into the world of thought, medium cases of a minor and more dubious and extracts from all existing or imaginable nature, in which the poet's discriminating things that ethereal essense, which beautieye can best distinguish what is exalted or fies the aspect of nature, elevates the soul of refined, puerile or base; and consequently man, and gives even to his every day exiswhat is most worthy of his genius. Nor let tence such intensity of enjoyment, as those him who has openly committed himself in who look at facts only as they are recorded, verse, believe that such distinction entitles and study matter merely as it is, can never him to make laws for his own accommoda- know. tion, and observe or transgress the establish- General associations must therefore occued rules of taste just as his own fancy may py an important place in the consideration dictate. The same celestial fire which of all who would study the poetry of life; prompts his lay is warming humbler blos- nor will such deem their time misspent in soms unmarked amongst the crowd; and following up a close examination of some mingled with the dense multitude which he particular subjects with reference to this esdisdains are countless poets uncommitted, sential point. who constitute a tribunal from which there Let us first consider that well known and is no appeal ; who must eventually sit in familiar object, the human face, of which judgment upon his works, give the tone to even single and distinct features have frepublic opinion, and pronouncing his irrevo- quently been thought sufficiently important cable doom, consign him to oblivion or to to inspire the poet's lay. From the earliest fame.

times, the forehead has been dignified with Those who have taken little pains to in- a kind of personality, and regarded as an quire into the nature and origin of their index to the character of man, whether bold mental sensations, often express instantane- or bland, threatening or benign, disturbed or ously a correct judgment of works of art, serene: nor is it in language peculiar to the from what they would be very likely to call poets only, that we speak of a man confronta kind of instinct or intuitive perception of ing his enemies with undaunted brow-or what is right or wrong; but which might that he receives his sentence of punishment more philosophically be referred to combi- with a forehead undisturbed—that we are nations of ideas derived from certain impres- encouraged to hope for mercy by the bland sions associated, compared, and established or benign forehead of the judge-or bear by a process of the mind which they took no adversity with a brow serene. Physiognonote of at the time, and with which they have mists profess to read the natural character of never made themselves acquainted. Of such man chiefly from the form of his forehead; is a great proportion of the multitude com- but whether studied scientifically or not, posed; and it is this fact which gives to pub- we all know in an instant what is indicated lic opinion that overpowering weight against by the simultaneous contraction and lowerwhich no single critic, or even select body of ing of the brow; we know also, without critics, can prevail.

much assistance from study of any kind, The poet who is not a blind enthusiast, when the nature of the forehead is noble or will learn by experience, if he know not with mean, harsh or mild; we naturally look to out, that the public taste must be consulted the upper part of the face, in order to form in order to recommend himself to public ap- those instantaneous opinions of our fellowprobation. He therefore gives himself up to creatures at first sight, which are not unfrethe study of what is universally regarded as quently a near approach to truth; and we most ennobling, touching, or sublime. He may, with some degree of certainty, read in endeavors to forget himself, and setting the forehead, when at rest, what are the aside the pains and pleasures of his own principal elements of character in those limited experience as a little private store to with whom we associate. But scarcely can

a feeling be excited, or a passion stirred, than there the confirmation of her strange tones the muscles of the forehead are agitated by of anger or reproof, and if there is no cona corresponding movement. How suddenly demnation in that oracle of truth, he feels and strongly is the forehead affected by as that her words are but empty threats, retonishment! and even in listening attentive- turns to his gambols, and laughs again. ly to a common story, the eyebrows are occa The lover knows that his earnest suit is resionally elevated, and thus afford a sure jected if the eye of his mistress has no reindication that the hearer is interested, and lenting in its glance; and the criminal who that the narrator may proceed. How strik- pleads for some mitigation of his sentence, ing is the contraction of the forehead in deep looks for mercy in the eye of the judge. and earnest thought! How unspeakably It would be a fruitless expenditure of mournful under the gloom of sorrow! How words to set about establishing the fact, frightfully distorted by the violence of rage! that the eye is poetical. Every poet capaHow solemn and yet how lovely in its char- ble of stringing a rhyme has proved it to acter of intellectual beauty! It is difficult the world; every heart capable of feeling to connect one idea of a gross or corporeal | has acknowledged it to be true. nature with the forehead; all its indications But while thousands and tens of thousands are those of mind, and most of them of a are poetizing about the eye, no one dares powerful, refined, or elevated character; venture upon the nose; a fact which can from the Madonna, whom no painter has only be accounted for by our having no thought worthy of a high degree of intellec- intellectual associations with this member, tual grace, yet whose forehead invariably and being accustomed to regard it merely indicates a character mild, delicate, and pure, for its sense of smell or as an essential orto the dying gladiator, whose expiring an nament to the face. The nose is incapable guish is less of the body than of the mind. of expressing any emotion of mind, except

The forehead, therefore, is a subject well those which are vulgar or grotesque-such fitted for the poet's pen, and he may sing of as laughter or gross impertinence. It is its various qualifications without fear of true, the nostrils are distended by any effort transgressing the rules of good taste. of daring, but it is rather with animal than

The eye is poetical in a still higher de- moral courage, such as might animate a gree, because it possesses a greater facility barbarian or a horse. It is indeed a curious, in adapting itself to present circumstances, but incontrovertible fact, that while the enand reveals in greater minuteness and va- raptured slave of beauty is at liberty to riety the passions and affections of the mind. expend his poetic fire in composing sonnets Indeed, so perfect is the eye as an organ of to his lady's eye, no sooner does he descend intelligence, that it is more frequently spoken to the adjoining feature, than the poetry of of in its figurative sense than in any other; his lay is converted into burlesque, and he and there is scarcely a writer, however is himself dismissed as a profaner of love grave,

whose pages are not embellished by and the muses. frequent poetical expressions in which the The mouth, though frequently spoken of eye is the principal agent; such as,-the in a figurative sense, is less poetical than language of the eye-the eye of the mind- the eye, most probably because of its immethe eye of omnipotence and a countless diate connexion with the functions of the multitude of figures, without which we body. In the language of poetry, the lips should find it difficult to express our ideas, and the tongue are generally substituted and which sufficiently prove how intimate for the mouth; the one being associated and familiar is our acquaintance with the with the more refined idea of a smile, and eye as a medium of intelligence, no less the other with the organs of speech. than as an organ of sense. With the uni Every one sees at the first glance, that versally intelligible expression of the eye, the chin is not a subject for poetry; for are associated our first ideas of pain or though its peculiar formation may be strongpleasure, fear or confidence: the infant nat- ly indicative of boldness or timidity, as well urally looks up into its mother's eye to read as some meaner traits of character, it is so

incapable of changing with the changing beast, they lost sight of the characteristics of emotions of the mind, that the chin must the man. The Egyptians appear to have imremain to be considered merely as a feature bodied in their sculpture the first, or rather the of the face, and nothing more.

embryo idea of the sublime; and their huge, These notions, derived from the study of massive, and unmeaning heads, scarcely the human countenance, may appear to give chisselled into form, are as far removed in to the subject a greater degree of import their expression from what is gross, as what ance than it really deserves; for there are is human. The Grecians knew better what many individuals not aware that they have was requisite to the gratification of a refined ever bestowed more physiognomical study and intellectual taste. They knew, that in upon the face of man, than upon the plate order to ennoble their representations of the from which they dine. But let one of these countenance of man, it must not only be direlate his favourite story to a stranger, who vested of all resemblance to the brute, but neither raises his eyes nor his eyebrows that, to rouse the human bosom to sensawhile he is speaking, whose mouth never tions of admiration and delight, it must be for one moment relaxes into a smile, and enlivened with the expression of human inwho gives no sign that he is interested by telligence. Had they proceeded but one any other motion of the head or face; the step farther in their imitation of nature as it teller of the story how little soever he may is—had they consulted the sympathies and think he has studied the subject, will per- affections of humanity, they might have imceive that he has wasted his words upon mortalized the genius of the times by proone who could not, or would not appreciate ductions equally sublime, but infinitely more their value. This fact he knows with cer- | touching and beautiful. tainty, and without being told; because As the Grecians reasoned and acted in from childhood he has always been accus- the early stage of civilization, so we, in formtomed to see earnest attention accompanied ing our earliest notions of the abstract naby certain movements, or positions of the ture of beauty, reason, perhaps unconface; and has observed, that the same face sciously, to ourselves. We see that a low would be very differently affected by weari- and rapidly retreating forehead, sunken ness or absence of mind. Thus, we gather eyes, short nose, distended and elevated at knowledge from experience every day with the tip, wide mouth, and scarcely perceptiout being aware of it, and are satisfied with ble chin, are common to animals of the most the possession of our gain without inquiring repulsive character; and we loathe the from whence it was obtained.

image of a human animal in any way reThe sentiments upon which mankind are sembling these. With that propensity ingenerally agreed respecting the beauty or herent in our nature to rush towards the opdefornuity of the human countenance, origi-posite of every thing which excites dislike or nate more frequently in association, than, pain, we create a false taste, and affect to without examination of the subject, we admire what is not to be found in real life. should be disposed to allow. How often are And as most living faces have some faint we struck with a similarity between certain touch of resemblance to the animal creation, faces and certain animals of the brute crea- we are more enraptured than the rules of tion; and just in proportion as the resem- physiognomy would warrant, with the cold blance is gross and brutal, we regard it with sublime of Grecian statuary. Nor is this disgust and horror. The ancients estab- taste likely to be corrected, because we lished for themselves a standard of beauty, study these marble beauties as statues only, as far removed from such resemblance as and consequently find in them all that is rethe form of the human countenance would quired for loveliness in repose; but could a allow; and sometimes, in their contempt for Grecian divinity step down from her pedesthe rude expression of animal life, they tal, and come to visit our couch in sorrow, rushed into the opposite extreme, and ex- bend over us in sickness, or meet us at the tinguished all apparent capability of living door of our home after long absence and -in their anxiety to avoid the mark of the weary travel; we should then perceive the

« PreviousContinue »