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has not a spontaneous look; and hence Göthe compared Greek Art to a volcano burning beneath a covering of ice; and this “ coldness” has been universaliy felt; nor is the difference of religion and customs sufficient altogether to account for it, since even in sculpture (and that too in the purely human phases of it), which bears least visibly the imprint of a nation's spirit, a certain coldness strikes the beholder at first sight. This is indisputable, and we believe it to be greatly owing to the absence of that spontaneous air which ideal art must induce. These considerations render us very curious on the subject of their æsthetics.
How early Art was regarded by them as an object of speculation, we have no trace. Scattered remarks upon its nature, end and laws are to be found in their oldest poems; but in these we only find an artistic, not a philosophic comprehension of the subject. The philosophers, however, soon opened the field of inquiry, and their results were at length reduced by Pythagoras to mathematical principles. Pindar was instructed by Lasos, author of the oldest work on music possessed by the Greeks*; and Democritus wrote no less than ten treatises, which comprehend almost the whole region of Art; viz. on Poetry, Rhythmus, Harmony, Beauty of the Epic, Homer, Song, Diction, Painting and Perspective. Democritus was the first who opposed the opinion that poetry was a mere facility, which, like rhetoric, could be learnt by repeated exercise ; showing it to be a madness (uavia), a being possessed by the God (év Deòv), the obeying of an in-dwelling, but unconscious and divine impulset; “ for they do not,” says Platoț, “ compose according to any art which they have learnt, but from the impulse of the divinity within them.”
Plato's æsthetical views the reader will see collected and expounded in the before-mentioned work of Ruge. We shall only mention the profound insight indicated in the passage at the end of the Symposium,' that “ the foundations of the tragic and comic arts are essentially the same;" we say indi
* Suidas, 227.
+ Hor. ad Piso, 295; Cicero de Divin., i. 34. This is the púols Oeálovoa (Dio. Chrys. 35), &vdovoladuós kai iepòv hveäua (Clem. Alex.), which Democritus demands of the real poet, and which he, like Plato, expressed by poetical madness.
cated, because he has stated it so loosely, that we cannot accept it in his words. The tragic of necessity contains within itself the comic capability; but the converse does not hold. Passion which suffers, and imagination which irradiates every side of things, saturating the surface as well as piercing to the core, can, from their very intensity and illumination, comprehend in their glance both the congruous and incongruous, the eternal and the accidental, the earnest and the ludicrous. But wit, which sees only the resemblances of surface, or humour, which sees only the incongruities of things, by not undergoing, not seeing all, but only a part of things, can never produce the tragic. For when the congruous or the earnest are known, the incongruous and ludicrous are (according to Kant) also known with them; the departure from the one gives the other. Yet the congruous is not the other aspect of the incongruous, nor does the conception of the latter involve the former ; for, the congruous has but one form, the incongruous many. The tragic poet then can be comic : for, conceiving the grandeur of action, he can also conceive the littleness of action: but the comic poet does not necessarily include the tragic, inasmuch as the conception of the littleness of an action does not positively include a clear, pure conception of the grandeur of it.
The treatises of Aristotle and Longinus are too well known to be here spoken of. But Greece perished—the Porch and the Academy were no more ; and from that period until 1729, (when nature gave birth to one of her giant pioneers, known to men as Gottlob Ephraim Lessing,) æstheticz slept the long sleep. Dim ghosts occasionally “visited the glimpses of the moon,” proclaiming themselves the unmistakeable “ buried majesty of Denmark," but they vanished at the cockcrow of inspection. Without waging a bloody and heroic war with the already slain, we may at once assert, that such a thing as æsthetical criticism was not known, and that the treatises then believed in are buried beneath the weight of their own dust. One fact they do represent, viz. that criticism has always been co-existent with Art; and now the question resolves itself into this second one-whether it be better for the artist that criticism should be good or bad ? If bad, then stick to your Batteux and Blairs; if good, then
must it be sought elsewhere; and English echo answers, 66 where ?”
But here a no less remarkable question presents itself :if Art has done without good criticism so long, what need of it now? No one has put this question, and yet it is a very plausible one. We answer—because Art is the flower of its age; because it must now spring out of a different soil, —a more critical and conscious one. The manifestations of Art in this century cannot possibly be the same as those of any other century; it must use other means, other formulæ, because its audience differ in ideas from any other*. We take it to be the radical error of artists, that they do not distinctly set before themselves not only their object, but the requisitions of the age. Accustomed to live among the works of the past, to breathe their atmosphere, and to consider them as perfection, their whole endeavour is to reproduce those types, which they do in a lifeless, soulless form. They forget, that even in our most unfeigned admiration of those relics of antiquity, we always make allowance for the difference. We have no faith in their ideas, but we see that they themselves had, and it is enough; but when a modern would reproduce those types, he fails : first, and most signally, from a want of faith in the ideas he symbolizes; and, secondly, from our resenting as an untruth, an impertinence, any resurrection of these ideas long buried in the grave of time. His chance of success is proportioned to the relation between the ideas of that time and ours. The true Greek ideas, for example, can never affect us. Those of the middle ages will do so more or less, but never completely. We are aware of the existing cant about the ancients, but are convinced, that if the Minerva, and the Moses of Michael Angelo were produced for the first time by modern artists, precisely the same as they now are, all unprejudiced persons would award the preference to the Moses, though feeling both of them to be incomplete. The connoisseurs, i.e. those who know least but cant most
• Hence the above question is half answered. However we may admire Shakspeare, Spenser, Dante, etc., one thing is certain, that they fulfilled the critical demands of their age, not of ours; were their poems to appear tomorrow, they would be universally condemned as irregular, crude and deficient in art. To us they are classics.
about the matter, would of course detect the Græcism of the Minerva, and so award the preference because it was Greek.
The revival of Art is fondly talked of, passionately hoped for by some, but the means are not so ready at hand. One proposes the abolition of “ academies ;” another, “ severe study of the ancients;" a third, “ protection and patronage of government,” “ et omne quod exit in um, præter remedium !” We do not propose æsthetics as the panacea, but we do firmly believe it to be a very necessary ingredient; for, as we said, this is a critical and conscious age, and its Art must therefore inevitably partake of this spirit. " That which a work of art," says Hegel, “ beyond the immediate enjoyment, “ in these days, should satisfy in us, is our judgment, because “we bring under our scrutiny and contemplation the subject“matter (Inhalt) and its representative forms or symbols “ (Darstellungs-mittel), and the fitness or unfitness of the one “ to the other. We ask, is the subject good ? is the treat“ment good ? and are they mutually conformable? Hence “ the philosophy of Art is, in our times, much more neces“ sary than it ever was in those times when Art was sufficient “in itself as Art*.”
That the German poets are critical poets, no one doubts; and although doubts are expressed as to the genius of Göthe and Schiller by some few, gifted with an appreciation of works whose language they do not understand, yet, waving all comparisons, this one truth remains :—they sufficed for their country and epoch; they were the artistic expression of the time, and have had all the influence which poets can attain. This is something; it is worth studying, even if Art be dead. It may be very plausible to talk about the “infancy of nations” being favourable to Art, and of civilization “by enlarging the understanding, thus weakening the influence of imagination," but we hold it to be altogether false and rhetorical. Was the age of Pericles, of Augustus, of Louis XIV., of Elizabeth and James, and of Europe after the French revolution,—was any of these the “infancy of nations ?” Were not all the intellectual faculties then in as vigorous play as now? Were not science and philosophy equally at work? What then becomes
* Æsthetik, b. i. 16.
of the argument about“ infancy of nations ?” Or, setting these aside, if Art be, as we believe, a social mission; if it be the expression of the age under its emotive and beautiful phases, will it not vary with the age? If it was “imaginative" then, may it not now receive another impress, and still effect its mission ? All Ideas are not equally favourable to Art, though, when dominant, they must be equally expressed by it, as indeed they are not equally favourable to humanity. For instance, the dominant Idea of the eighteenth century (i. e. that portion which is known as the eighteenth by reason of its dominant Idea, for towards the close of it began the new era) was analysis, the most fatal of all to Art, inducing “scientific accuracy of statement,” whereby it becomes didactic, and ever on the verge of prose; inducing, moreover, the great attention to details, to passages, cramp-versification, and “sober reasonableness.” On the other hand, synthesis admits and demands that high mystic expression which feels more than it comprehends, and includes all particulars in the general; hence its intensity. What are the poetic names? In France, Voltaire, J. B. Rousseau, La Motte, Delille, etc. In England, Addison, Pope, and that school. In Germany, Hagedorn, Ramler, Gellert, etc. In Italy, Metastasio. Everywhere mediocrity, mere form and good sense; no high poetic worth, no intense passion, no gospel tidings are to be read there. It was not a poetic epoch: but how comes it, if our theory of the poetic Idea be false, that there was not in all this century one man who could redeem it? Man, they say, draws his inspiration from nature, from his own heart; if so, why did he remain uninspired during this century ? Surely nature's face was fresh, as varied, and as beautiful as ever; surely man's heart trembled with passions, his breast swelled with aspirations, and there was woman with her affections; why then did no singer arise and pour forth a strain, which we and all the world recognise as greatly poetic? Because, we repeat, man draws his inspiration from Ideas; those of the eighteenth century were not suited to a poetry different from the one they brought forth-clever, correct, material. Yet the century was great in science, because analysis is a great idea for science: hence it saw Newton, Bernouilli, Clairaut, Maclaurin, Napier, D'Alembert, Laplace, Euler, Lagrange, Humboldt, Herschel,