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teaching men how to observe and regard this beautiful universe; and we have also seen that nature when thus studied, in turn reciprocates the favour, teaching us to observe much in the poet or artist which had otherwise been entirely overlooked. His highest theme Man, and, as Shakspere saith, “What a piece of work he is ! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties ! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action, how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! . . the quintessence of dust!”1 And Dryden
“From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
This universal frame began :
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man." Meditating the high and immortal destinies of the race, the Poet utters wisdom, truth, and beauty for all time. Words being primarily symbolical of things, language
1 Modern inductive science has shewn this to be literally true, for "everything passes by indivisible shades into something else, "—
“Links of life through nature creeping,
Serial steps progressing ever-" though in a sense quite apart from the absurd development theory of Lamarck, as recently revived by the author of “The Vestiges." Every organism points upwards to man as “the apex of the earthly hierarchy," for, says Professor Owen, “all the parts and organs of man, had been sketched out, in anticipation, so to speak, in the inferior animals."
The reader will recall George Herbert's beautiful poem, quoted in our introductory chapter, and also be prepared to appreciate the following passage from Coleridge's “ Aids to Reflection,” which, with the exception of one or two slight misapprehensions of fact, embodies the latest scientific results.
“The metal,” says he," at its height, seems a mute prophecy of the coming vegetation, into a mimic resemblance of which it crystallizes.
is his medium of representation, and with new capabilities, a wider field, and the power of positive teaching, he is in an especial manner the High Priest of the Beautiful. The blossom and flower, the acme of vegetable life, divides into component organs with reciprocal functions, and by instinctive motions and approximations, seems impatient of that figure, by which it is differenced in kind from the flower-shaped Psyche that flutters with free wing above it. And wonderfully in the insect realm doth the irritability, the proper seat of instinct, while yet the nascent sensibility is subordinate thereto-most wonderfnlly, I say, doth the muscular life in the insect, and the musculo-arterial in the bird, imitate and typically rehearse the adaptive understanding, yea, and the moral affections and charities of man. Let us carry ourselves back in spirit to the mysterious week, the teeming work-days of the Creator, as they rose in vision before the eye of the inspired historian of the operations of the heavens and of the earth, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. And who that watched their ways with an understanding heart could-as the vision evolved and still advanced towards him-contemplate the filial and loyal bee, the home-building, wedded, and divorceless swallow, and, above all, the manifestly intelligent ant tribes, with their commonwealths and confederacies, their warriors and miners, the husband folk that fold in their tiny flocks on the honey's leaf, and the virgin sisters with the holy instincts of maternal love, detached, and in selfless purity, and not say in himself, Behold the shadow of approaching humanity, the sun rising from behind in the kindling morn of creation !"
A more recent authority says: “From the lowest mechanical or chemical influences on inorganic matter, there is an unbroken series to the first manifestation of organic changes, and from these again from the lowest vegetable, or zoophyte, up to the highest mammalia —there is entirely one continuous progression, its connexion from one term to another being carried on through absolutely insensible degrees and shades of difference."
We refer for more particular illustration, or rather confirmation of these views (in their proper acceptation) to the first scientific authorities of the day, more particularly to the "Footprints of the Creator," and "Testimony of the Rocks," by Hugh Miller; also, to a recent popular and able work, by M'Cosh and Dickie, entitled “Typical Forms and Special Ends in Creation."
We have watched Music, “heavenly maid,” with so little of the earth earthy about her, bearing “the silver key of the fountain of tears," and soaring away above the world—“poetry taken wing”—to the regions of the blessed.
The intervals and harmonies of music, we have seen, afford the key to that universal harmony, which alike pervades nature at rest or in motion, all the arts, and the mind of man himself: not that these are dependent on music, or even specially influenced by it; but by means of musical vibration and rhythm, we have obtained the earliest intimation, and, as yet the clearest insight into those all-embracing and all-controlling ratios which extend from a ray of light, an atom, or crystal, to plant or animal; from those welling rings which outspread when a stone is dropt into the smooth lake, to the epochal changes of ancient oceans; from the graceful bend of a drooping flower, to the curve of a mountain or a wave; from a dew-drop, to a star, and throughout the whole revolving galaxies of worlds ; from minute insect-notes, far above and beyond the compass of man's hearing, to earshattering salvos almost too loud to be heard ; from the note carelessly struck by a child to the marvellous Sonata of Beethoven ; from a Greek temple with its friezes and statues, or a picture by Raphael, to the mighty intellect of our Shakspere.
We have then spoken of criticism, and the function of the critic, in reference to the appreciation of excellence; and, also, of the means of diffusing correct taste so that art may best serve its own high ends.
It only remains, for us to notice the potent influence of pure and sanctified art in balancing and tranquilizing
the mind. Wordsworth, speaking of his studious occupations and beloved books, writes, what is worthy of being read by all who love beauty under any of its manifestations
"Thus I live remote
Smooth passions, smooth discourse, and joyous thought.”
“Spirit divine through works of human art.” In this respect, however, we admit that art has hitherto been lamentably deficient, save in a few exceptional instances, the beauty of the unregenerate mind being that of a ruin; but enough has surely been done to show its capabilities, and what may reasonably be expected, when the world becomes permeated by LOVE—the genial spirit of Christianity. In the Hymn of Heavenly Beauty, Spenser writes:
“ His seat is Truth, to which the faithful trust,
From whence proceed her beams, so pure and bright,
That all about him sheddeth glorious light.” And mark how Cowper, picturing the bliss of that friendship which God so bountifully had bestowed upon him, in the last line, refers its greatest charm to the same Divine source
« 'Tis grace, 'tis bounty, and it calls for praise,
If God give health, that sunshine of our days !
And giving one whose heart is in the skies,
A soul, an image of Himself, and therefore true.” The Greeks have given us the perfection of material beauty—the Christian alone can hope to equal this perfection, and, at the same time, subordinate it to the yet higher beauty of the spiritual.
Henry Taylor has well said—“The understandings, from which mankind will seek a permanent and authentic guidance, will be those which have been exalted by love, and enlarged by humility.”
We again repeat, that Art is not in itself ultimate, but chiefly valuable as a means to an end—the elevation of the soul producing its corresponding fruit in the life-a truth which cannot be too often enunciated ; for “the end of all study,” as Sir James Mackintosh has well said, “is to inspire the love of truth, of wisdom, and of beauty, especially of goodness, the highest beauty, and of that Supreme and Eternal Mind, which is the fountain of all truth and beauty, all wisdom and goodness.” While then we endeavour cheerfully to render our highest and our best, consecrating Art and everything we have, let us also bear in mind the great truth thus set forth by Wordsworth "God for his service needeth not proud work of human skill ;
They please him best who labour most to do in peace his will.
And now, passing on to the next and last portion of our subject, we close this section with the following lines,