Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

ness is still in contention with them, the Soul has not yet appeared: they must be moderated by unassisted Nature in Man, by the might of the Spirit. But there are cases of a higher sort, in which, not a single force alone, but the intelligent Spirit itself, breaks down all barriers; cases, indeed, where the Soul is subjected by the bond that connects it with sensuous existence, to pain, which should be foreign to its divine nature; where Man feels himself invaded and attacked in the root of his exist. ence, not by mere powers of Nature, but by moral forces; where innocent error hurries him into crime, and thus into misery; where deep-felt injustice excites to rebellion the holiest feelings of humanity.

This is the case in all situations, truly, and in a high sense, tragical, such as the Tragedy of the Ancients brings before our eyes. Where blindly passionate forces are aroused, the collected Spirit is present as the guardian of Beauty; but if the Spirit itself be hurried away, as by an irresistible might, what power shall watch over and protect sacred Beauty ? Or, if the Soul participate in the struggle, how shall it save itself from pain and from desecration ?

Arbitrarily to limit the power of pain, of excited feeling, would be to sin against the very meaning and aim of Art, and would betray a want of feeling and Soul in the artist himself.

Already therein, that Beauty, based on grand and firmly established forms has become Character, Art has provided the means of displaying without injury to symmetry the whole intensity of Feeling. For where Beauty rests on mighty forms, as upon immovable pillars, a slight change in its relations, scarcely touching the form, causes us to infer the great force that was necessary in order to effect it. Still more does Grace sanctify pain. It is the essential nature of Grace that it does not know itself; but not being willfully acquired, it also cannot be willfully lost. When intolerable anguish, when even madness, sent by avenging Gods, takes away consciousness and reflection, Grace stands as a protecting demon by the suffering form, and prevents it from manifesting anything unseemly, anything discordant to Humanity; but if it fall, to fall at least a pure and unspotted victim.

Not yet the Soul itself, but the prophecy of it; Grace accomplishes by natural means, what the Soul does by a divine power, in transforming pain, torpor, even death itself, into Beauty.

Yet Grace thus preserved amid the extremest discordance would be dead, without a transfiguration by the Soul. But what expression can belong to the Soul in this situation? It delivers itself from pain, and comes forth conquering, not conquered, by relinquishing its connection with sensuous existence.

It is for the natural Spirit to exert its energies for the preservation of sensuous existence, the Soul enters not into this contest; but its presence moderates even the storms of painfully struggling life. Outward force can take away only outward goods, but not reach the Soul; it can tear asunder a temporal bond, not dissolve the eternal one of a truly divine love. Not hard and unfeeling, nor wanting in love itself, the Soul, on the contrary, displays in pain this alone, as the sentiment that outlasts sensuous existence, and thus raises itself above the ruins of outward life or fortune in divine glory.

It is this expression of the Soul that the creator of the Niobe has shown us in this statue. All the means by which Art tempers even the Terrible, are here made use of. Mightiness of form, sensuous Grace, nay, even the nature of the subject matter itself, softens the expression, since pain, transcending all expression, annihilates itself, and Beauty, which it seemed impossible to preserve from destruction, is protected from injury by the commencing torpor.

But what would it all be without the Soul, and how shall this manifest itself ?

We see on the countenance of the mother, not grief alone for the already prostrated flower of her children; not alone deadly anxiety for the preservation of those yet remaining, and of the youngest daughter, who has fled for safety to her bosom; nor resentment against the cruel deities; least of all, as is pretended, cool defiance: all these we see, indeed, but not these alone, for, through grief, anxiety, and resentment streams, like a divine light, eternal love, as that which alone remains; and in this is preserved the mother, as one who was not, but now is a mother, and who remains united with the beloved ones by an eternal bond.

Every one acknowledges that greatness, purity, and goodness of soul have also their sensuous expressions. But how is this conceivable, unless the principle that acts in Matter be itself cognate and similar to Soul ?

For the representation of the Soul there are again gradations in Art according as it is joined with the merely Characteristic, or in visible union with the Charming and Graceful.

Who perceives not, in the tragedies of Æschylus, that lofty morality already predominant, which is at home in the works of Sophocles ? But in the former it is enveloped in a bitter rind, and passes less into the whole work, since the bond of sensuous Grace is yet wanting. But out of this severity, and the still terrible charms of earlier Art, could yet proceed the grace of Sophocles, and with it the complete fusion of the two elements, which leaves us doubtful whether it is more moral or sensuous Grace that enchants us in the works of this poet.

The same is true of the plastic productions of the early and severe style, in comparison with the gentleness of the later.

If Grace, besides being the transfiguration of the spirit of Nature, is also the medium of connection between moral Goodness and sensuous Appearance, it is evident how Art must tend from all points towards it as its centre. This Beauty, which results from the perfect interpenetration of moral Goodness and sensuous Grace, seizes and enchants us when we meet it, with the force of a miracle. For, whilst the spirit of Nature shows itself everywhere else independent of the Soul, and, indeed, in a measure opposed to it, here, it seems, as if by voluntary accord, and the inward fire of divine love, to melt into union with it: the remembrance of the fundamental unity of the essence of Nature and the essence of the Soul comes over the beholder with sudden clearness: the conviction that all antagonism is only apparent, that Love is the bond of all things, and pure Goodness the foundation and substance of the whole Creation.

Here Art as it were transcends itself, and becomes means only. On this summit sensuous Grace becomes in turn only the husk and body of a higher life: what was before a whole is treated as a part, and the highest relation of Art and Nature is reached in this, that Art makes Nature the medium of manifesting the soul which it contains.

From «Relations of the Plastic Arts to Nature. »

JOHANN CHRISTOPH FRIEDRICH VON SCHILLER

(1759–1805)

HEN Goethe wrote “Faust,” he left no question of his pre-emi

nence among German poets, but it can be questioned if even

the idea which inspired Faust is as lofty or as deep as Schiller's idea that the Spieltrieb” is the impulse of higher civil

As a hypothesis, it begins where the agnostic theory of the survival of the fittest” under pressure of environment ends. The Darwinian theory shows man compelled by necessity to develop so much intelligence as will save him from destruction.

The theory of Schiller shows him led by his affections to develop into the Infinity beyond Necessity. The pressure of environment" may account for the kraal of the Kaffir, and the snow hut of the Eskimo, but Schiller's hypothesis accounts for the Parthenon and the dome of St. Peter's. He saw that men improve most by doing not what they must, but what they love best, and he found his solution of the problem of progress in Liberty and Love. Children who mold the rude image of a man from clay after a rain, or savages who scrawl a drawing into the face of a cliff, are compelled by no other necessity than that of doing their own pleasure — of the “Spieltrieb » or play impulse," acting under perfect liberty. But in such acts, Schiller saw the beginnings of all those arts which express the higher operations of mind.

As an essayist he is greatly superior to Goethe in the power of connected and sustained statement. Few writers in or out of Germany have equaled him in this. It is as remarkable as in one sense it is regrettable, that a poet who expresses himself through verse in thronging images of sensuous beauty should, in defining in prose the high ideas which animate his verse, become abstract and severe to the last degree. In any ten lines of the essays in which he is stating his conclusions, the strongest intellect can find material for longer meditation than busy readers are generally able to give to ten pages. Hence Schiller has never been popular as an essayist, and he is never likely to become so. But those who will make a serious attempt to respond to the severe demands he makes on all who come to him for instruction are not likely either to forget him as a teacher or to cease to thank him,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
« PredošláPokračovať »