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and human passion, and beauty to do with canting penances,' and 'ineffable yearnings,' and diseased pathos ?
Here we are checked by the remonstrance, that while health, and sensual enjoyment, and physical comfort, and industrial progress form collectively one thing, art or literature is quite another. The former, people say, is real; the latter only a mere intellectual amusement. Now, I humbly conceive that art, if it be any thing at all, is a reality. It is, or should be, as real a thing, and one as necessary to human happiness, as food or clothes. Nature herself teaches this, with marked emphasis. Tear up a field, blast rocks with gunpowder, and in a few days grass and mosses cover the rifts with beauty. There is not one single action of a law of Nature which does not carefully clothe its own practical operation with the seemingly useless curtains and drapery of beauty. To what purpose all these colors, tints, fringes, and exquisite contours ? Simply because beauty is the outward indication of inward, perfection; the consummatum est of the builder, to show that the work is well done; and because we have though depraved, undeveloped human nature does not as yet recognize it.
- a sixth sense, the perception of the Beautiful. Take the microscope, and forget self amid animalculæ ; go to the depths of the drop of water, and amid the myriads which people that minute sea, you find endless forms of beauty, anticipating the lens.
We have not yet awoke to the really Beautiful, to a full sense of its pleasures, as those who come after us will. Most of our admiration for beauty is a dilettanti sham, a miserable second-hand lie. We like a scene in a theatre better than the original view, and writers on æsthetics vex their souls to find out a reason for it. "It is our innate love of imitation,' they say. It is nothing of the kind, save that we are still so much under the influence of millions of shams; and so far from being educated to health and nature, that we do not feel pure beauty as we ought. When education brings Man to live in accordance with Nature, say anatomists, his life will reach a century; since at present he is the only animal which does not live five times the period requisite to complete his growth. But I add, that when this natural life is reached, then the enjoyment of the Beautiful will be regarded as more essential than most practical needs now are, since in nature that charming element actually preponderates over all other conditions or qualities.
So completely are we as yet bemired in Romance and slimy Sentimentalism, that I confess that I do not see my way out of their swamps. Wading waistdeep, with face and arms and head smeared ; my only consolation being a bottom under foot, which grows firmer, and a sky above becoming brighter ; I am unable to express myself, save through a medium of figures, all borrowed from ancient mire, bogs, and mists. The poet must still address a beautiful girl as an angel,' though he never saw any such bewinged, semi-human fowl; or he must adjective her with 'diyine' and 'transcendently pure,' though he knows her to be nothing of the sort, and would be very sorry if she were. He would possibly gladly depict her as exactly what she is, since that would be the noblest and highest compliment he could pay her — but Old Custom must have its dues. I, reader, and you too, see in every lovely woman an exquisite expression, an indescribable life of earthly beauty, which really transcends and defies our limited power to say what it is, and so we call it something which it is not. Were we, had we been educated to grasp Nature or Beauty as it is, we should have the power to call it what it is.
It is terrible, this oppression of old Romance forms and sentimental associations and feelings. To be sure, we have made an advance in calling Mary, Mary, and not 'Chloe;' and in not terming ourselves swains or shepherds. But all our poets, when they write songs, reëcho old wails, old refrains. The reaction from the doleful days of the Middle Ages, is in the delicate ballads of Tennyson ; ineffable sorrow, low fever rankle in those Percy and Uhland metres; all very sweet, doubtless, but oh! how sickly! •Well — it reflects the age. If the age be chaotic, transitionary, suffering, shall its songs be merry ?' True enough. But the age is mending. Far in the East shine the first red gleams of a bright day, and since it is dawning, let us begin to make ready for light. Let us wash away the old romantic film from our eyes, and put on new garments, and leave to the past its past. For us the words of the Danish Hillerup :
* And now the Morning Red gleams o'er me,
I see the sun shine bright above;
At length my conqueror's wreath I've wove.
No more your bitter pangs annoy,
Nature and Beauty are my joy.'* It is possible, dear reader -- and if you read these pages with full sympathy, you are indeed inexpressibly dear to me it is possible, if you are not blinded by the pre-Raphaelite, or Puseyite, or midnight dreams of those sweet, charming Middle Ages, which were so picturesque — that is to say,
if your reading has been black-lettered enough to teach any thing of their reality — you may at times have held your breath for very horror, to think what the great mass of poor humanity then suffered, and yet lived. So fearfully were the faculties of enjoyment crushed, violated, outraged, so coarsely were all better instincts wronged during that tardy march of slow development, so far does the human soul appear to have grovelled below its legitimate uses, that a feeling of hurrying, impatient anguish is the only one awakened by the good old time in the heart, which has had a glimpse of holy, refreshing Truth. As that age seems to us, so will this of ours seem to those who are to come after
We are in the fountain, but they shall be in the broad and shining river.
* The greater beauty of the original claims its insertion :
Mig opgaar nu mi Morgenrode, jeg Solen skuer i sin Glands ; hoor tusend svage Hjærter blöde, jeg vundet har min Sejerskrands. Teg glemmer eder, svundne Dage ! I skal ej nage meer mît Bryst. I kan ej komme meer tilbaze; Naturens Skönhed er min Tröst.'
To them the infinite wailing, the musical melancholy of our poetry, the sighs of singers, who had nothing to sigh for, and who had better have been consoling Humanity than crying over it, will appear as inexpressibly ridiculous, as wretchedly affected, as the jargon of Euphues Lily, and of his Italian models, now does to us. By heavens! were it not that I know that the poor devils cannot help it, (for every bird sings as his beak grew,) I could swear roundly at these sweet, penserose-water bards, who, with never a sorrow of their own, go begging and bidding for vulgar popularity, by whining out lays which sickly taste admires as 'pathetic.' This endless 'pathos,' this hollow wailing, be it of Poe, Tennyson, or any one, is the Amaryllis Daphnis and Chloe-ism of this age — the powdered wiggery and roco-Cupid ornament of the day; and it is time that we were ashamed of its affectations and mannerism. Here and there a sensible man is ashamed of it too. There is a generation coming which will as unmercifully satirize this sweet, puling pathos of ours, as ever a disciple of Schlegel satirized the powdered shepherdesses of the last century; unless, indeed, the coming generation should be more deeply impressed than we are with the unavoidable power of the necessities of historical development - in which case our pining, whining Troubadours may be allowed to sleep calmly in their graves, or rest on shelves as curiosities.
The everlasting wailing, the endless cry of 'lost Edens and buried Lenores,' which rises from all the poets of this generation, is indeed the natural cry of those who are too dignified to stoop to humor, yet are not dignified enough (or at least not sufficiently vigorous, or æsthically cultivated) to rise to Joyousness and health. The same affectation of cultivated feeling, with the same accompanying weakness and ignorance, is amusingly enough illustrated by the vast popularity enjoyed at present by a certain class of negro ballads, inspired by a sentiment which I have heard characterized as 'mulatto melancholy.' In these songs, plaintive airs are wedded to the most sickening and affected trash of melancholy words, in the negro dialect, which ever man heard. Were the sentiment genuinely negro, it would be all well; but it is not. It is the mock pathos of vulgar white rhymers, thrust on the unfortunate darkies, who, while untutored by Ethiopian Serenaders, never originated aught more sentimental than Uncle Gabel.' But why, then, the popularity of these black wails among the white multitude ? Simply because the white multitude being too full of the affectation of seriousness; being ashamed, as the white multitude generally is, of showing weakness for the beautiful, makes the unfortunate darky bear this additional and deepest load of degradation. The ‘Lily Dales,' 'Do n't be Foolish Joes,' and other stuff, are all shams, by which Puritan and popular two-penny dignity keeps itself away from more subjective realities. And as the more vulgar gratify their taste for the melancholy, which is such a relief from their vigorous, common-place thought, by 'Lily Dales ; ' so those who are familiar with 'Shakspeare and the musical glasses,' devour the sweet, cloying poison of a higher caste poetic misery. With what ineffable gusto have I heard a merry, healthy, wealthy young beauty, who had no sorrow in life, and whose laugh rang out all day among the merriest, exclaim - oh! with such feeling! VOL. LIX.
• BREAK, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O sea !
Will never come back to me.'
‘But,' cry the world and here comes the great argument, 'pathos is inseparable from humanity. Pathos is innate in the human heart; all have their tender sorrows; the mission of poetry is to console.' The more ignorant, the greener tyros in poetry, which is to say, in art or in philosophy, will even add : •Pathos is my vein ; it is a spirit too delicate for your boisterous, hearty mind. You cannot appreciate it.' Finally, we hear that suffering and pathos and tender melancholy have always existed, and that therefore they always must exist. These are the three popular defences of the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth so immensely popular in our day and generation.
To the first, it may very fairly be answered, in the words of a proverb, that a man may love his house without riding on the roof-tree. Grief there is, and must be; and it is meet and fit that there should be artistic expression thereof, and consolation for it. But that sorrow should be pampered and petted up, and misery be made musical on all imaginable occasions, and that the luxury of woe should be served up at every evening-party piano, is unutterably absurd. That there is an excitement in it, we all know. But it is a weakening, unhealthy excitement. It is morbid. Poor life ! it has indeed sorrows enough of its own, and pathos flows forth readily enough, from the human heart, when troubles call to it. But there is an earnest, noble voice of Truth, which tells us that it is better to resist sorrow than to succumb to it; that despondency is hateful, and despair devilish; and that all which detracts from hearty, healthy, vigorous action, from willing labor, is wrong; come it as unresolving remorse, or pious apathy, or endlessly teasing and vexing the wound with poetic pathos. Grief is lessened and sorrow is lessened when the soul is not stored with a whole magazine of dainties, such as they best love to feed on. To console sorrow is indeed a divine mission; to keep it alive and increase it, is a deed of quite opposite nature.
For the ignorant egotists, who claim for pathos what the Behmenites and Mystics claim for their Inner Light, that it involves a peculiar illumination appreciable only by the Initiated or Gifted, I respectfully submit that there never yet has been a truly joyous and genial, or even humorous, writer, who had not at some early stage of his career explored infinitely more deeply and closely than they themselves ever did, all the secrets of their prison-house of pathos. For it is a law, and one of fearful significance, that no one shall attain the Golden City, or walk among the Shining Ones, until he have first traversed that sickening, doleful Valley of the Shadow of Death, whose foul, illsmelling vapors overspread the world in the form of uncalled-for misery in literature and art.
At this very minute, the effort to inspire a spirit of Joyousness, health, nature, and truth, while acceptable to the great majority of practical, real-life persons, and to a very few among the most highly advanced thinkers, is not agreeable to the great majority of half-way readers and writers, who open their eyes in blank amazement, that any one should doubt that ninety-nine one-hundredths of literature ought to consist of pathos, or the serious.' Pathos, which is so sweet, so much more refined than vulgar health ; sentiment, which refined dilettanti always prefer to earnest truth, in all its glory and infinitely varied majesty ; and snuffling seriousness, which affects an eccentric road better than that of genial truth; these are the idols of the small tyros, who know but little of literature, less of the world, and least of all of the science of criticism, which, as the German Wieland says of physiognomy, is a science that every man holds himself to be proficient in, and which the fewest understand.
There is but one answer for those who remonstrate, and who hold that in literature a sound impartial taste can be better formed by only seeing a part than all. Nine-tenths of all the trash written, which no person out of prison would read, and which no editor would accept, is invariably of the wailing character, or of the mock pathetic, or solemn-romantic order, even when it is entirely free from melancholy. It is not to be denied that a young author may be quite unable to write any thing in a lively, spirited, earnest, or life-like vein
i and that it would be doing violence to himself, to attempt any thing else; but it is also true, that he cannot have taken a-wide range of observation, and that he is as yet in a murky valley, and not on the mountain-top.
And what avails it, to tell us that here and there a writer of the first rank has been a constant wailer? How few and far between are these poems;
and how the critical eye sees en in them, flashing through the black rifts, the deep under-fire of the world — though the good small trudger, who but half appreciates them, sees nothing of it. But here comes the cry, after the manner in which the oi pollo, always send up when one advocates ever so slightly any one truth, 'Oh! then you would banish the pathetic in literature !' for those who know nothing but one-sidedness and extremes, believe that all the world are like themselves. Let any man, who has suffered and thought, banish earnest sorrow, if he can.
It is of those who know best by experience what pathos is, that the most genial humorists are made. They end by being like Nature; that is to say, like Everlasting Truth. And what is that? Look around, my good Small Soul — thou whose 'philosophy' is in a school-book or two — and see a world of mountains, forests, sun-light, rivers, men, women, birds, and a thousand beautiful organisms -- all striving to do what? To resist decay, and pain, and death, unto the end ; and to bravely make the best of it. It is not ordained that they shall conquer no where in the book of fate comes there the name of Chider –
"The immortal, the ever young, Who, when five hundred years had passed by as before, Was standing on the same spot once more.'
But it is ordained that we shall do battle to the end, with pain and decay, (and 'pathos,' particularly the sentimental, is only a phase of the latter ;) and the best and truest man is he who, having seen in all its inevitable terror the truth that all must yield to suffering and death, instead of lying down, and rolling over in the dust; and howling and wailing, in all the vileness of cowardice,