Imágenes de páginas

rington the commonwealth of Oceana, and that of Shakspeare the characters of Hamlet and Falstaff. The difference between these several efforts of invention, consists only in the manner in which the original materials were acquired; as far as the power of imagination is concerned, the processes are perfectly analogous.

The attempts of Mr. Addison and of Dr. Reid to limit the province of imagination to objects of sight, have plainly proceeded from a very important fact, which it may be worth while to illustrate more particularly. That the mind has a greater facility, and of consequence, a greater delight in recalling the perceptions of this sense than those of any of the others; while at the saine time, the variety of qualities perceived by it is incomparably greater. It is this sense, accordingly, which supplies the painter and the statuary with all the subjects on which their genius is exercised, and which furnishes to the descriptive poet the largest and the most valuable portion of the materials which he combines. In that absurd species of prose composition, too, which borders on poetry, nothing is more remarkable than the predominance of phrases that recall to the memory, glaring colors, and those splendid appearances of nature, which make a strong impression on the eye. It has been mentioned by different writers, as a characteristical circumstance in the Oriental or Asiatic style, that the greater part of the metaphors are taken from the celestial luminaries. “ The works of the Persians,” says M. de Voltaire, “are like the titles of their kings, in which we are perpetually dazzled with the sun and the moon.” Sir William Jones, in a short Essay on the Poetry of Eastern Nations, has endeavored to show, that this is not owing to the bad taste of the Asiatics, but to the old language and popular religion of their country. But the truth is, that the very same criticism will be found to apply to the juvenile productions of every author possessed of a warm imagination, and to the compositions of every people among whom a cultivated and philosophical taste has not established a sufficiently marked distinction between the appropriate styles of poetry and of prose. The account given by the Abbé Girard of the meaning of the word Phébus, as employed by the French critics, confirms strongly this observation. Le Phébus a un brillant qui signifie, ou semble signifier quelque chose : le soleil y entre d'ordinaire ; et c'est peut-être ce qui, en notre langue, a donné lieu au nom de Phébus.” (Synonymes François.)

Agreeably to these principles, Gray, in describing the infantine reveries of poetical genius, has fixed, with exquisite judgment, on this class of our conceptions:

" Yet oft before his infant eye would run

Such forms as glitter in the Muse's ray
With orient hues"

From these remarks it may be easily understood, why the word iinagination, in its most ordinary acceptation, should be applied to cases where our conceptions are derived from the sense of sight; although the province of this power be, in fact, as unlimited as the sphere of human enjoyment and of human thought. Hence, the origin of those partial definitions which I have been attempting to correct; and hence too, the origin of the word imagination ; the etymology of which implies manifestly a reference to visible objects.

To at the various modes in which imagination may display itself, the greater part of the remarks contained in this chapter will be found to apply, under proper limitations ; but, in order to render the subject more obvious to the reader's examination, I shall, in the further prosecution of it, endeavor to convey my ideas, rather by means of particular examples, than in the form of general principles; leaving it to his own judgment to determine, with what modifications the conclusions to which we are led, may be extended to other combinations of circumstances.

Among the innumerable phenomena which this part of our constitution presents to our examination, the combinations which the inind forms out of materials supplied by the power of conception recommend themselves strongly, both by their simplicity, and by the interesting nature of the discussions to which they lead. I shall avail myself, therefore, as much as possible, in the following inquiries, of whatever illustrations I am able to borrow from the arts of poetry and of painting ; the operations of imagination in these arts furnishing the most intelligible and pleasing exemplifications of the intellectual processes, by which, in those analogous but less palpable instances that fall under the consideration of the moralist, the mind deviates from the models presented to it by experience, and forms to itself, new and untried objects of pursuit. It is in consequence of such processes (which, how little soever they may be attended to, are habitually passing in the thoughts of all men,) that human affairs exhibit so busy and so various a scene; tending, in one case, to improvement, and, in another, to decline; according as our notions of excellence and of happiness are just or erroneous.

It was observed in a former part of this work, that imagination is a complex power. See p. 87. It includes conception or simple apprehension, which enables us to form a notion of those former objects of perception or of knowledge, out of which we are to make a selection ; abstraction, which separates the selected materials from the qualities and circumstances which are connected with them in nature; and judgment or taste, which selects the materials, and directs their combination. To these powers, we may add, that particular habit of association to which I formerly gave the name of fancy; as it is this which presents to our choice, all the different materials which are subservient to the efforts of imagination, and which may therefore be considered as forming the ground work of poetical genius.

To illustrate these observations, let us consider the steps by which Milton must have proceeded in creating his imaginary garden of Eden. When he first proposed to himself that subject of description, it is reasonable to suppose, that a variety of the most striking scenes which he had seen, crowded into his mind. The association of ideas suggested them, and the power of conception placed each of them before him with all its beauties and imperfections. In every natural scene, if we destine it for any particular purpose, there are defects and redundancies, which art may sometimes, but cannot always, correct. But the power of imagination is unlimited. She can create and annihilate : and dispose, at pleasure, her woods, her rocks, and her rivers. Milton, accordingly, would not copy his Eden from any one scene, but would select from each the features which were most eminently beautiful. The power of abstraction enabled him to make the separation, and taste directed him the selection. Thus he was furnished with his materials; by a skilful combination of which, he has created a landscape, more perfect probably in all its parts, than was ever realized in nature ; and certainly very different from any thing which this country exhibited at the period when he wrote. It is a curious remark of Mr. Walpole, that Milton's Eden is free from the defects of the old English garden, and is imagined on the same principles which it was reserved for the present age to carry into execution.

From what has been said, it is sufficiently evident, that imagination is not a simple power of the mind, like attention, conception, or abstraction ; but that it is formed by a combination of various faculties. It is farther evident, that it must appear under very dif- ! ferent forms, in the case of different individuals ; as some of its component parts are liable to be greatly influenced by habit, and other accidental circumstances. The variety, for example, of the materials out of which the combinations of the poet or the painter are formed, will depend much on the tendency of external situation, to store the mind with a multiplicity of conceptions; and the beauty of these combinations will depend entirely on the success with which the power of taste has been cultivated. What we call, therefore, the power of imagination, is not the gift of nature, but the result of acquired babits, aided by favorable circumstances. It is not an original endowment of the mind, but an accomplishment formed by experience and situation; and which, in its different gradations, fills up all the interval between the first efforts of untutored genius, and the sublime creations of Raphael or of Milton.

An uncommon degree of imagination constitutes poetical genius ; a talent which, although chiefly displayed in poetical composition, is also the foundation (though not precisely in the same manner) of various other arts. A few remarks on the relation which imagination bears to some of the most interesting of these, will throw additional light on its nature and office.


This power

Of Imagination considered in its Relation to some of the Fine Arts.

Among the arts connected with imagination, some not only take their rise from this power, but produce objects which are addressed to it. Others take their rise from imagination, but produce objects which are addressed to the power of perception.

To the latter of these two classes of arts belongs that of gardening ; or, as it has been lately called, the art of creating landscape. In this art, the designer is limited in his creation by nature; and his only province is to correct, to improve, and to adorn. As he cannot repeat his experiments, in order to observe the effect, he must call up, in his imagination, the scene which he means to produce; and apply to this imaginary scene his taste and his judgment; or, in other words, to a lively conception of visible objects, he must add a power (which long experience and attentive observation alone can give him) of judging beforehand, of the effect which they would produce, if they were actually exbibited to his senses. forms what Lord Chatham beautifully and expressively called the prophctic Eye of Taste : that eye wbich (if I may borrow the language of Mr. Gray) “ sees all the beauties that a place is susceptible of, long before they are born ; and when it plants a seedling, already sits under the shade of it, and enjoys the effect it will have from every point of view that lies in the prospect.” (Gray's Works, by Mason, p. 277.) But although the artist who creates a landscape copies it from his imagination, the scene which he exhibits is addressed to the senses, and may produce its full effect on the minds of others, without any effort on their part, either of imagination or of conception.

To prevent being misunderstood, it is necessary for me to remark, that, in the last observation, I speak merely of the natural effects produced by a landscape, and abstract entirely from the pleasure which may result from an accidental association of ideas with a particular scene. The effect resulting from such associations will depend in a great measure, on the liveliness with which the associated objects are conceived, and on the affecting nature of the pictures which a creative imagination, when once roused, will present to the mind; but the pleasures thus arising from the accidental exercise that a landscape may give to the imagination, must not be confounded with those which it is naturally fitted to produce.

In painting, (excepting in those instances in which it exhibits a faithful copy of a particular object,) the original idea must be formed in the imagination : and, in most cases, the exercise of imagination must concur with perception, before the picture can produce that effect on the mind of the spectator which the artist has in view. Painting, therefore, does not belong entirely to either of the “ Decep

two classes of arts formerly mentioned, but has something in common with them both.

As far as the painter aims at copying exactly what he sees, he may be guided mechanically by general rules; and he requires no aid from that creative genius which is characteristical of the poet. The pleasure, however, which results from painting, considered merely as an imitative art, is extremely trifling: and is specifically different from that which it aims to produce, by awakening the imagination. Even in portrait-painting, the servile copyist of nature is regarded in no higher light than that of a tradesman. tion," as Reynolds has excellently observed," instead of advancing the art, is, in reality carrying it back to its infant state. The first essays of painting were certainly nothing but mere imitations of individual objects; and when this amounted to a deception, the artist had accomplished his purpose.” (Notes on Mason's Translation of Fresnoy's Poem on the Art of Painting, p. 114.)

When the history or the landscape painter indulges his genius, in forming new combinations of his own, he vies with the poet in the noblest exertion of the poetical art; and he avails himself of his professional skill, as the poet avails himself of language, only to convey the ideas in his mind. To deceive the eye by accurate representations of particular forms, is no longer his aim ; but, by the touches of an expressive pencil, to speak to the imaginations of others. Imitation, therefore, is not the end which he proposes to himself, but the means which he employs in order to accomplish it: nay, if the imitation be carried so far as to preclude all exercise of the spectator's imagination, it will disappoint, in a great measure, the purpose of the artist.

In poetry, and in every other species of composition, in which one person attempts, by means of language, to present to the mind of another, the objects of his own imagination ; this power is necessary, though not in the same degree, to the author and to the reader. When we peruse a description, we naturally feel a disposition to form, in our own minds, a distinct picture of what is described; and in proportion to the attention and interest which the subject excites, the picture becomes steady and determinate. It is scarcely possible for us to hear much of a particular town without forming some notion of its figure and size and situation; and in reading history and poetry, I believe it seldom happens that we do not annex imaginary appearances to the names of our favorite characters. It is, at the same time, almost certain, that the imaginations of no two men coincide upon such occasions; and, therefore, though both may be pleased, the agreeable impressions which they feel, may be widely different from each other, according as the pictures by which they are produced are more or less happily imagined. Hence it is, that when a person accustomed to dramatic reading sees, for the first time, one of his favorite characters represented on the stage, he is generally dissatisfied with the exhibi

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