Page images

Tlı' old serpent lay, bead-bruised -- and far above
Soared saints and martyrs to beatitude,
For whom he conquereit. Thus the vision closed.

All this is the poetry of the piece, because it is the creative, --the imaginative. · To consolidate the argument, therefore, we will confine our observations to the poet. We call then on the poet as the representative of genius-imaginationfancy. Human creator! Partaker with Deity of his most incommunicable attribute! His most perfect image, - because most like in that by which his deistic poyer is most fully shewn! Semi-divine mind,“ Sojourning demi-god, who leavest thy name upon the harpstring !” Oh, when the hour of inspiration seizes thee-with

“ The still horror and the blissful tear," is the mind, thus exerting the god within it, only intent on distinctly copying in idea the impressions of sense, –an exercise of the reminiscence, a mode of memory? These are calm operations; there is here no mysterious and still horror,-a consciousness of the presence and the calling up of a preternatural power,--the exertion of a faculty that assumes to itself a portion of the plastic attribute of Deity, and emancipates man for the time from his prison-house of clay. But this is necessary: it is so universally known of men of genius, and of the poet in particular, that its effects have been attributed to madness.

Would a mere exertion of memory-a mere recalling of images, require this Delphic fury, - this preternatural possession,-phrenzy? Such are the convulsions which attend the labour of genius, and the travail of imagination ; it is an effort of creation, not of recollection. We appeal to each and all who have ever exerted this, (the god within them,) - whether, at such moments, they are more solicitous to copy or create? whether they go back to a model and exemplar, or burn forwards to the new, the strange, the unknown? It is the rapture of conception,-it is the pang of child-birth, it is the joy that a new idea is born into the world.


But is it not said, and by the immortal Locke, that an idea is merely the reflex perception of objects after the original perception or impression has been felt by the mind ? Has it not been asserted, that the mind is dependent for her first ideas on those material organs, which, from their nature, are solely conversant with the phenomena of the material world?

Whence then are our ideas of being, and the laws of being ? Tbings exist to us only because we exist to them. The converse of the proposition is not equally true.

Matter is only intelligible, not intelligent. External objects are substantiated in, not instinct with, spirit. The idea of being, man derived from his own existence; of law, from that principle by which his own individual identity is preserved from day to day, and which is none other than that peculiar genius which is the subject of the present essay. The

very first thought of the first man, as soon as he was conscious of existence, must have been,--" What am 1?" This idea was soon extended and multiplied by the creative and other processes of the imagination. “Whence ?--how ? -why ?—where?-whither?” These were no ideas derivedonly from external objects, but necessarily resulted from the existence of mind. These questions have since been asked so often, that they appear taught to us, rather than coming from us; yet, whether taught or not, comprise the ideas which are the most native to our being, and appear not so much a consequence as a component part of our mental existence. They are perhaps the only ideas wbich may be te: med innate, (if any may be so termed,) or connate; and, although common to every man, are, as it were, felt to be original in each.

When the falling of the apple suggested to Newton the law of gravitation, was the idea of that law derived from that circumstance? Had he the presumption to found a universal law upon a particular phenomenon He did not presume,he only assumed. He universalized the phenomenon; and the very impulse to do this involves the prior assumption of some efficient law in nature, as the common ground and condition presupposed by the contemplating mind in each and all, --attributed to all phenomena, but derived from none. The mind creates it after the fashion of its own being, and seeks in nature for the image of that law, which it received immediately from the Origin of all Law, in whose image it was itself created.

The term idea is sometimes used in a sense where it must be independent of any antecedent object. We speak of the ideas of the divine mind, and of the universe being modelled from them.

"lu nature's frame ile grcat Artificer pourtrays

His own immense idea." Such an idea is called an archetypal idea. This creation is but the visible image of that immense idea !--and thus the creation of the poet is but the bodying forth, from “ the airy nothing," of "the thing unknown,”--the material image

of the secret (the archetypal) idea, enshrined in the mysterious recesses of the intellect, -the seat of the soul,—the temple of that spirit which is an efflux of the divine effulgence. Hence, the process by which it operates is termed IMAGINATION, because it bodies forth, or images to man, the ideas of mind, and not only because it - images within the mind the phenomena of sensation." It has another, but inferior process, termed Fancy. With respect to the poet, its operation is two-fold. Words are the only media he can employ; and they have, at one and the same time, to image forth the idea of the mind, and the reflex perception in which that idea is embodied, and without which it could not be assimilated to any thing we know, and consequently could not be comprehended. Language is hieroglyphic, and our ideas may only be communicated by analogy: Language, in its philosophic sense, embraces sounds and signs of all kinds; music,--painting, sculpture,-every medium by which ideas may be conveyed, and represented to hearing or to sight. Though the signs be the same, the ideas are varied; they are the same counters, but the game is different.

[blocks in formation]

Why may not Imagination and Fancy be the two eyes of the mind, looking inward and outward, giving shape and body to the spiritual suggestions from the soul within, and transmuting the material objects of sense, by their divine alchemy, into mental images, modifying them into ideas, and endowing them with intellectual qualities ? the understanding be the recipient of such ideas,- the balance in which they are weighed,--the measure in which they are meted, - the mortar in which they are decomposed or compounded ? the judgment compare them ?--the reason decide ? May not this be?-nay, is it not the cause why men differ so widely in opinion upon the simplest point; because all ideas enter into, and proceed from the mind, through the media of the Imagination and the Fancy? the cause or occasion why any one word conveys, perhaps, to no two persons the same identical idea? No two persons behold the same iris at once.

To reason belongs only the third idea, and that is produced from the two furnished by the Imagination or the Fancy. It is a common observation,-no one can see with another's eyes;

and the mental vision is always intended by the observation. It is granted that the faculties of enlarging, subtracting, combining, and adding, endowing, and modifying, may not be literally true of the natural eye; but, artificially, they may be superadded to the properties of the natural eye, by means of

lens, magnifying glasses, &c. And what the natural sight of man can acquire from art, why may not his intellectual vision possess in itself, being, as it is, so superior to the former, and of which that is but the instrument; (so says Paley :) since, without the agency of the mind, those artificial helps could not be appropriated to the use of the natural eye?

The imaginative faculty hath a power which no instrument can impart to fleshly vision, that of creating the objects of its own contemplation, by turning its light inward into the soul's mysterious essence; and, from its incomprehensible substance, moulding passion, and power, and existence, by virtue of the sublime and secret connection which she hath with the spirit of the universe and deity; and by which, in the language of Plato, the soul is said to beget gods-or, in the language of Wordsworth, to deify man,

By our own spirits are we deified !”


Wordsworth first “ unveiled the philosophical distinction between the powers of Fancy and Imagination; the first, being used to express a faculty soniewhat capricious, and exempted from law,—the latter to express a faculty more self-determined."

“ The imagination,” says Wordsworth, " is conscious of an indestructible dominion; the soul may fall away from it, not being able to sustain its grandeur; but, if once felt and acknowledged, by no act of any other faculty of the mind can it be relaxed, impaired, or diminished. Fancy is given to quicken and to beguile the temporal part of our nature, Imagination to incite and to support the eternal.” “ This distinction,” says Mr. Quesney, -and who, judging from the few specimens we have had an opportunity of seeing, we are inclined to consider as one of the first metaphysicians or psychologists of our age,-“ comes out more strongly in the secondary derivative fanciful, and the primary derivative fantastic: we say, primary derivative, in reference to the history of the world.

1. OAVTUOIL, whence phantasy : 2. for metrical purposes, phant'sy, (as it is usually spelled in Sylvester's Du Burtas, and other scholar-like poems of that day.) 3. By dropping the t in pronunciation, phansy or fancy. Now, from No. 1 comes fantastic; from No. 3 comes fanciful.

There can be no doubt that when the poet of the “ Sicilian Story” declared "Fancy” to be “ever the mother of deep Truth,” he meant by the term that superior and dominant faculty which“ shapes and creates by innumerable processes, and delights in none more than in that of consolidating numbers into unity, and dissolving and separating unity into number,-aller


nations proceeding from, and governed by, a sublime consciousness of the soul in her own mighty and almost divine powers.”

We have endeavoured to distinguish and compare these faculties in the following passage, extracted from some metaphysical speculations in which we sometimes indulge:

Fancy is more of an animal faculty,-- Imagination more of a spiritual. The Fancy tints its productions with the colours of external nature,- Imagination gives to external nature properties not possessed by it before, but which are wholly and only of the mind which contemplates it. Every thing it touches is made intellectual ; all matter is, as it were, purged away from it, and the mental only suffered to remain, cleansed from the impurities of accident, and untrammelled by the fetters of circumstance. Hence it confers on whatever object it embraces a durability, and preserves it from mutation ; it assumes the power of purifying and eternizing, of establishing and exalting, and is in itself pure, eternal, immutable. Fancy, on the contrary, is capricious, changing according to the quality of outward impressions, and adopting the light and shade of external nature. Hence, it is equally subject to the corruptions of chance, and the limits of incident. It is liable to decay from a thousand causes; it depends on the constitution of its possessor, and may fail with health. But Imagination is imperishable: the body may fail, but that is ever vigorous; indeed, its energy may increase with the infirmity of the body;---it may grow strong in weakness. The Fancy is more active, and equally creative, but its creations are transitory,--those of Imagination are indestructibile; they are of the soul, and, like the soul, stable and immortal, which, in its original constitution, is independent of the objects of sense, and no further concurrent with them than the laws of its union with matter render its co-operation requisite. These laws make it necessary that it should employ the phenomena of sensation as the moulds of its creation, and the media of munication with other, and, perhaps, inferior faculties. Not to itself is this necessary; its own intelligence could do without words; but language is necessary to the circulation of ideas. The effects of these laws have rendered it difficult to separate Fancy from Imagination, and they have been generally identified even in metaphysical discussion. The distinction is nice,-to a superficial observer very little, if

f any. But the profound thinker will perceive the absolute necessity of drawing the line. He will dive deeper into the recesses of the soul, and discover there a power, whose operations are unconnected with this orb of sense,--dwelling in a world of its own, and surrounded by its own creations, like a hermit in


« PreviousContinue »