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Our guilt and misery; when for these we grieve,
So in the cell where, stern afflictions prey,
THE STUDY OF MONUMENTS.
FROM THE GERMAN OF PROF. FERDINAND PIPER, OF BERLIN, BY REV.
CHARLES M. MEAD, PH.D., PROFESSOR AT ANDOVER.
(Note. — The following Article is a translation of an Address delivered before the Philological Convention held in Hanover in 1864, and entitled, “Ueber die Einführung der monumentalen, insbesondere der christlich-monumentalen Studien in den Gymnasial-Unterricht.” The relation between the gymnasia and the universities of Germany being in general similar to that between our colleges and professional schools, Professor Piper's plea for the study of monuments in gymnasia is equally valid for the study of them in our colleges. Much is omitted from the Article which would be of interest chiefly to Germans; but it has been thought best not to change the form of the Address in general, as the reader can readily supply the modifications necessary to make the truths presented applicable to our own circumstances and institutions, and the changes would be likely to diminish the freshness, more than they would increase the pertinency, of Professor Piper's remarks.]
The question of monumental studies as a part of the course of instruction in gymnasia leads to the consideration of three points: first, the necessity of them as an organic part of the course; next, their place in the course; finally, the requisite conditions of their prosecution.
I. The necessity of these studies may be argued from two grounds: on the one hand, the gymnasia have a claim upon them on their own account; on the other, the universities have a right to insist on this preliminary training. The pedagogic and scientific interests therefore coincide ; and this very coincidence furnishes a strong proof that the necessity is a real one.
To speak briefly of the latter point, the claim of the university, it is justified by the fact that without this preparation on the part of the students the university cannot properly do its own work. The students need not so much a preliminary knowledge of facts, as that their taste for art and an appreciation of its works should have been awakened and
cultivated; for this is a special faculty, and needs to be excited early. It is clearly too late to begin this cultivation at the age of eighteen or nineteen, after one has finished his academic course. Besides, this neglect easily produces a positive effect: not only is the preparation lacking, but a fatal *prejudice against the whole thing may be produced, and that too, much more in the sphere of classical than of theological study, because the gymnasia enter more thoroughly into the former, and aim to confer a classical culture in a certain sense complete. If however this culture is gained only from literary monuments, as if the subject were thus exhausted, the monuments of art are made to seem superfluous and unnecessary. And the consequence is soon manifest: he who in the gymnasium is initiated into the poetry of Sophocles will very likely also read Aeschylus at the university ; but he who, though he may have there heard of works of art, has yet acquired no fondness for them, perhaps never enters a museum.
More pressing is the claim which the gymnasium can urge for itself, as the whole object of academic instruction shows. This object may be stated as threefold :
1. It may doubtless be assumed that the higher schools (those which do not aim to educate men for special vocations, but borrow their means of education chiefly from classical antiquity) have to do with the whole man, not with particular faculties of the mind; that their part is rather to develop and train them all. For this purpose, however, as the nature of the instruction requires, the understanding is principally appealed to, since the subjects are introduced to the mind in a disintegrated, fragmentary form, one part after another. As a corrective for restoring the equilibrium, it has long been seen that the intuitive faculty must be brought into use. This is already done to some extent, e.g. in the study of geometry by the construction of plain figures, or by the use of solid bodies (regular ones, the cone with its sections, etc.), in geography by maps, in natural history by the exhibition of pictures, or of specimens either prepared or
natural. But this mode of representation is confined to space. A higher form of intuition, one which conducts us from the visible to the spiritual world, is afforded by works of art.
This course is now and then taken, even in instruction in languages, when a piece, after being taught analytically, is brought vividly before the mind as a whole. This is done in the middle stage of instruction by the declamation of poems and prose pieces; and in the higher stage, as the blossom and completion of the reading of classic works, by the acting of a Greek drama. But, as those who take part confess, the scheme often consumes a whole term ; and that is a sacrifice which can only rarely be made. Now although in such a way, when one verse after another has been first gone through, a general impression is attained, still there is this drawback, in poetry as well as in music, that we can perceive only in succession. To escape from this there is no way but to have recourse to the works of plastic art.
For these stand still as we contemplate them. But they require us constantly to look beyond the visible form to the thought that lies beneath, and to carry out this thought in our conception of the whole and of each particular; the possibility remaining of a repeated return from one to the other. This way, however, of attaining to an understanding of a work of art is the way in which all knowledge is attained, but can only here be shown with special clearness and practised with safety. Hence it is, in point of method, invaluable. But there are two particulars involved in it:
First. As in poetry and music the first requisite is the art of hearing, i.e. the ability to distinguish and measure the rhythm and the tones, so here the first thing demanded is to discern and determine what is visible. This is no small art, as is to be seen every day in common life, where eyewitnesses give very different reports of an event, and not only render a one-sided account, but relate what never happened at all. So it is with the monuments of art; men not only see them incorrectly, but see in them what is not there
at all. I witnessed an example at Ravenna. On a piece of the ivory bishop's seat in the sacristy of the cathedral, is represented a female figure sitting on an ass, which is led by an angel ; an elderly man is walking by her side, supporting and conducting her. It was said, agreeably to the traditional explanation there adopted : This is the flight into Egypt. By the question, where then was the child, the by-standers were nonplussed, until some one resorted to the shift that it was probably concealed under the mother's garment. But in reality the scene is the journey to Bethlehem, which preceded the birth. As a safeguard against such errors, therefore, is demanded the art of seeing merely what there is to be seen. We have indeed a seemingly opposite direction from the author of Laocoon : “ The more we see,” says Lessing, 2 - the more must we be able to add in thought. And the more our thought adds, the more must we think that we see.” But this relates to another kind of seeing, viz. with the mind's eye-reading, as it were, between the lines. And of this it is indeed true that, the more attentively we contemplate a genuine work of art, the more does it become articulate and speak to us. This leads us to the second point, the art of interpretation.
Its field is wide, and it has, according to the nature and design of the monuments of art, various forms, just as have the hermeneutics of literary monuments. Two of these deserve to be specially mentioned, as bearing on the interests of education : the psychological and the historico-religious. The former is to be applied wherever the artist, impressed by his theme, was able to breathe into his work the feelings and mood of his own soul. These become visible in the attitude and bearing of the separate figures, in the relation of the figures to each other, in the whole composition. The introduction to this department of art, to the art of appre
1 The false interpretation, with the same shift, is derived from Bandini, In tabulum eburneam, etc., Observat. p. 39 (where also a picture of the tablet is given). The correction was made by Münter, Sinnbilder, H. II. S. 751.
? Lessing, Laocoon, Werke, Bd. vi. p. 389 (ed. Lachmann).