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“ pellere atque incendere, nihil porro ad eum finem conse“ quendum efficacius, quam ea proferre exempla, quæ lector “ admiretur et sibi imitanda proponat*.” To the same effect the admirable old dramatist
“ How it doth stir the airy part of us
To hear our poets tell imagined fights,
Run boldly, and make tales for other times.” Homer expressly states, that glorious actions and noble destinies are the substance of poetryt; and Pierre Vidal, the celebrated Troubadour, in his advice to one of his brethren as to the mode of exercising the profession, also teaches this. He considers it as the storehouse of universal philosophy, and the cultivation of high sentiment; that it is the bond of union between heroes, and that the duty of the Troubadour
is to awaken in the next generation the high sentiments · which had been the glory of their forefathers t. “Even our
“ Saviour," says Sir Philip Sidney, "might as well have given “ the moral common-places of uncharitableness and humble“ness, as the divine narration of Lazarus and Dives, or of “ disobedience and mercy, as the heavenly discourse of the “ lost child and gracious father; but that his thorough-search"ing wisdom knew that the estate of Dives burning in hell, “ and Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, would more constantly, " as it were, inhabit both the memory and judgments.”
These citations, which might be indefinitely multiplied, are sufficient to show how impressed men have been from all times with the great moral influence of poetry; but this moral influence in final analysis becomes a religious Idea. By a religious Idea we do not mean the formalized religion of the epoch, nor even an acknowledged part of it, but, more Germanico, regard every Idea as partaking essentially of the religious character, which is the formula of any truth leading to new contemplations of the infinite, or to new forms in our social relations. Thus liberty, equality, humanity (the threefold form of this century's mission), are not, so to speak, “ doctrinal points ” in the formalized religion of the epoch; but inasmuch as they express (in the final analysis) the object and faith of the crusade in which all Europe is now sensibly or insensibly engaged, and as they have to complete a great social end, so may they be considered as eminently religious. We caution the reader against any narrow or exclusive interpretation of our expressions; nor must he be hasty in making his application of them. We admit that the poet does not give to this Idea its naked expression, nor is he even conscious of it; such is the task of the philosopher. Moreover, although we use the word Idea in its highest abstract sense, as expressing potentially the whole spirit of the age, yet we are aware of how many antagonistic different elements it is made up, and consequently each poem will mostly contain but one or more of these elements; not the entire Idea. But this may become clearer after the following remarks.
* Sir W. Jones's Poes. Asiat., cap. xvi. + Compare II. vi. 358; Od. iii. 204, xxiv. 197, &c. i Sismondi's Lit. du Midi, i.; see also Millot, ii. p. 283. § Defence of Poesy,
The most ever-present manifestation in the history of poetry, is its immediate connexion with religion. Hymns, sacred traditions, prayers and passionate aspirings and hopes for the future, form the staple of all antique poetry. “ Art,” says Dr. Ulriçi, “is in its origin ever one with religion—a proof of its Godlike origin, as a mediate and secondary revelation*." Not only in its origin, it is in its essence one with religion ; and its deviation from its sacred office, as civilization progresses, is only apparent, for the end of both must ever be one and the same. The end of religion, universally considered, is, not its speculative belief, but its practical result ; the translation of that hieroglyphic alphabet of faith into its corresponding symbols of action; thus leading mankind to a higher, purer state of being than the uneducated instincts and unrestrained passions ever could attain. Such is also the end of poetry, pursuing that end however through the Beautiful. It captivates rather than dogmatizes ; instead of purifying the soul by means of fasts, penances and prayers, it works its end through the emotions. Religion also works through the emotions, but it must assume the dogmatic, positive form,
* Ulrici, Shakspeare's Dramat. Kunst., p. i.
and must call in to its aid the understanding, i.e. philosophy, thereby addressing the intellect. Majendie defines the passions as “the triumph of the viscera over the intellect;" it is equally the province of religion and poetry to attain the triumph of the moral over the physical man*. “In po- . “ etry,” says Dr. Lowth, “ you have the energetic voice of “ virtue herself. She not only exhibits examples, but she “ fixes them in the mind." The learned Michaelis, in his notes on Lowth's 'Hebrew Poetry,' observes, “ There are “ however some poems which only delight, but which are not “ therefore to be condemned; some which, though they con“ tain no moral precept, no commendation of virtue, no sen“timent curious or abstruse, yet dress and adorn common “ ideas in such splendour and harmony of diction and num“bers as to afford exquisite pleasure; they bring, as it were, “ at once before our eyes the woods and streams, and all “ elegant objects of nature.” Here the learned scholar has not seen deeply enough, he has not reduced these questions to their final analysis ; for such poems, without positively, dogmatically teaching any moral truth, yet indirectly establish the end of all morality. The office of poetry is not moral instruction, but moral emulation ; not doctrine, but inspiration. The very fact of rendering us enamoured of existence, by pointing out the endless beauties squandered at our feet, and mostly trampled on by our dull preoccupations of business or idleness, is sufficient. Furthermore, all poetry need not be epic, or dramatic; there are glow-worms as well as stars, and as these small but brilliant lights do form a small part of the great nature, so, as before hinted, the various elements which constitute the idea must be represented, reproduced. Even in the sterner forms of religion herself, graceful and joyous hymns are admitted, and constitute indeed a part of the worship. But let us hear Hegel on the object and aim of art. " It is its object and aim to bring within the circle of our senses percep
* We have before cautioned the reader against narrow interpretations of our expressions. By religion here we do not mean the Christian only, but every religion of which we have knowledge. We are here neither confounding nor separating the true from the false, but simply stating to what all equally pretend. In the same way we speak of all poetry, not of any one class or of any one period. Indeed our speculations are purely abstract.
tions and emotions, everything which has existence in the mind of man. Art should realize in us the well-known saying, ‘Nihil humani a me alienum puto.' Its appointed aim is—to awake and give vitality to all slumbering feelings, affections and passions; to fill and expand the heart, and to make man, whether developed or undeveloped, feel in every fibre of his being all that human nature can endure, experience and bring forth in her innermost and most secret recesses; all that has power to move and arouse the heart of man in its profoundest depths, manifold capabilities and various phases; to garner up for our enjoyment whatever, in the exercise of thought and imagination, the mind discovers of high and intrinsic merit, the grandeur of the lofty, the eternal and the true, and present it to our feeling and contemplation. In like manner, to make pain and sorrow, and even vice and wrong, become clear to us; to bring the heart into immediate acquaintance with the awful and terrible, as well as with the joyous and pleasurable ; and lastly, to lead the fancy to hover gently, dreamily on the wing of imagination, and entice her to revel in the seductive witchery of its voluptuous emotion and contemplation. Art should employ this manifold richness of its subject-matter to supply on the one hand the deficiencies of our actual experience of external life, and on the other hand to excite in us those passions which shall cause the actual events of life to move us more deeply, and awaken our susceptibility for receiving impressions of all kinds. For we do not here require absolute experience to excite these emotions, but only the appearance (Schein) thereof, which art substitutes for sheer reality. The possibility of this illusion, by means of the representations of Art (Schein der Kunst), rests upon this, that every reality must pass through the representative medium (i. e. that we know things mediately by ideas, not things) before it can be cognised by the mind, or acted on by the will, and therefore it is immaterial whether we are acted on by exter. nal immediate reality, or receive our impressions through other means, viz. pictures, signs, or forms, which represent the qualities of this reality. Man can also picture to himself unreal things, as if they absolutely possessed reality. Therefore, whether we receive the impression of a situation, a relation, or the subject matter of a life, through the medium of external reality, or only through the representation of it, in both cases we are sufficiently affected to sorrow and rejoice, to be moved or agitated according to the nature of the subject, and in both cases we run through, in quick succession, the feelings and passions of anger, hate, pity, anxiety, terror, love, esteem, wonder, honour and fame"."
Art then, we see, is the reproduction of the spiritual world in a beautiful and pleasurable shape; it is the “interpreting tongue” in the fine remark of Horace:
“ Format enim natura prius nos intus ad omnem
Fortunarum habitum ; juvat aut impellit ad iram;
* Æsthetik, b. i. Einleitung, p. 60.
"For," says Hegel in the same spirit, “even in tears lies consolation. Man, when entirely absorbed in his sorrow, demands at least the outward manifestation of this in ward pain. But the expression of these feelings by means of words, pictures, tones and forms is still more softening; and therefore was it a good custom of the ancients to have female mourners at deaths and burials, as it brought grief into contemplation in its external form; or more especially as it showed the mourner his own grief expressed by others. For thus the whole subject of his sorrow would be brought under his view, and he would be compelled, by its frequent repetition, to reflect upon it, and so would be relieved. Thus abundant tears and many words have always been found the surest means of throwing off the overwhelming weight of sorrow, or at least of relieving the oppressed heart.”
But while advocating the opinion that poets are and ever have been doidoi copol, that poetry must have some end beyond amusement, some ideal beyond itself, we must protest against the dogma of its being “a moral teacher," and of always demanding the “moral” of a work of art: such a theory may be very suitable to the select “ academies” where youths “receive religious and moral instruction-singlestick if required," or may serve to bind up with Blair's Lectures, but is suitable to nothing else.
“The moral effect of works of ideal art," writes Mr. R. H. Horne, him. self both poet and critic, “is humanizing, chiefly because they excite refined emotions without advocating any exclusive or dogmatic moral. Their true mission is to enlarge the bounds of human sympathy. It was universally the custom in this country, till within the last few years, to ask, "What is the moral of the piece?' The answer was always absurd or infantine; frequently turning upon the naughty' parts of the story, some quotation from a school catechism of maxims, or a common proverb, but more commonly one of the ten commandments; which latter, in a Christian country, we should have thought might have been taken for granted, without so many illustrations. What is the moral of Othello? An instructive grandmother would obviously say, unequal marriages are dangerous, or you should not kill your wife from jealousy. What of Lear? We ought not to be unreasonable, exacting and passionate when we grow very old; or we ought to be too prudent to give away all our property before we die."
And Hegel, who willingly recognises the fact that “ Art was the first teacher," argues at some length the untenable and faulty positions occupied with respect to its aim as a moral instructort, contending that all dogma, all philosophy
* 'Essay on Tragic Influence,' prefixed to his noble tragedy of Gregory VII. + Vide Æsthetik, i. Einleitung, p. 66-73.